Zika Virus Updates

Zika Virus and associated conditions

As a healthcare provider, it is critical that you stay informed on the Zika prevention strategies.

By Kim Maryniak, PhDc, MSN, RNC-NIC, contributor

Analogous to the rapid spread of the Zika virus, information about the virus has also gained traction at a steadily increasing pace. Since March 2016, there were 153 travel-associated Zika virus cases reported in the United States; none of which were locally acquired.  In the U.S. territories (American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands) there were 107 locally acquired Zika virus cases, and one was reported to be travel-associated (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2016a).  

Additionally, from 2015 to August 2016, the number of travel-associated Zika virus cases reported in the United States have totaled 2,487; of which 29 cases were locally acquired.  In the U.S. territories, there have been 8,968 locally acquired Zika virus cases and 43 were travel-associated (CDC, 2016a). Within the U.S. territories, Puerto Rico continues to report the majority of the cases.  

Worldwide, there have been 70 countries which have reported Zika virus cases between 2007 and August 2016, including Africa, South America, Asia, and some European countries. This number has increased from the 52 countries reported in March of 2016 (World Health Organization [WHO], 2016a). A current map showing the distribution of the Zika virus worldwide can be found at the CDC’s web site.

Although mosquito bites continue to be the primary cause of Zika virus transmission, other forms of transmission exist. Other modes of transmission include maternal-child transmission (where an infected pregnant woman passes it to her fetus), sexual transmission, blood transfusions, or laboratory exposure. As of August 2016, there were 22 cases of sexually transmitted cases of the Zika virus confirmed in the United States, and one case of laboratory exposure (CDC, 2016a and 2016b).

There has also been increasing evidence that infection with the Zika virus is associated with other conditions. Recent research findings have identified the Zika virus as a potential cause for these conditions, rather than just a correlation. The findings revealed neurological and auto-immune conditions (including Guillain–Barré syndrome, myelitis, meningitis, and meningoencephalitis), and congenital anomalies (including microcephaly and ophthalmological abnormalities) (CDC, 2016b; European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 2016; WHO, 2016b). Furthermore, there have been seven cases of Guillain–Barré syndrome associated with the Zika virus in the U.S. and 26 reported cases in the U.S. Territories (CDC, 2016a), with the anticipation those numbers may increase.  

Outcomes of pregnancies with laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus in the United States include 16 total live-born infants with birth defects, and five total pregnancy losses with birth defects. In the U.S. Territories, outcomes of pregnancies with laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus include one total live-born infant with birth defects, and one total pregnancy loss with birth defects (WHO, 2016a).

Prevention strategies for the Zika virus include protection from mosquito bites (through use of Environmental Protection Agency, EPA,  insect repellents and clothing), controlling mosquitos (through removal of standing water, use of air conditioners and screens), and protection from sexual transmission (through use of condoms). Use of insect repellents should be used according to recommendations and instructions, particularly with children (CDC, 2016b). More information on insect repellents can be found at the EPA's web site.

Given the trending statistics and information about the Zika virus, healthcare professionals must remain current in their knowledge of the virus and potential complications. Overall, prevention is still the most important consideration with the Zika virus. To learn more, websites such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are reliable resources that provide current and updated information. 

For more information, see the new RN.com course Zika Virus: What We Know So Far.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  (2016a).  Case counts in the U.S.  Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/united-states.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  (2016b).  Zika virus. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016c). All countries and territories with active Zika virus transmission. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/active-countries.html
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.  (2016).  Rapid risk assessment: Zika virus disease epidemic: Potential association with microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Retrieved from  http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications/_layouts/forms/Publication_DispForm.aspx?List=4f55ad51-4aed-4d32-b960-af70113dbb90&ID=1466
World Health Organization (WHO).  (2016a).  Zika situation report.  Retrieved from http://www.who.int/emergencies/zika-virus/situation-report/25-august-2016/en/
World Health Organization (WHO).  (2016b).  Zika virus and potential complications.  Retrieved from http://www.who.int/emergencies/zika-virus/en/

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