Zika virus: Hospitals batten down the hatches as CDC works on vaccine

The threat of a Zika virus outbreak includes numerous unknown variables, which have healthcare providers across the nation adopting a "better safe than sorry" approach.

For example, Cleveland hospitals have put efforts to refine testing and diagnostic protocols into overdrive, according to Cleveland.com. As new information comes in, conventional wisdom about the disease may change rapidly, according to Steven Gordon, M.D., chairman of the Cleveland Clinic's infectious disease department.

Providers are also working to combat misinformation and panic about the disease. While comparisons often crop up between Zika and the recent Ebola scare, infectious disease experts stress that Zika is significantly less contagious and doesn't require a quarantine to prevent its spread, according to the article. The first case of the virus in Ohio was discovered this week in a Cleveland woman who recently visited Haiti, according to an announcement from University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will host a conference call and webinar to discuss the virus with Florida healthcare workers, according to the Associated Press. Gov. Rick Scott has already declared a state of emergency in four Florida counties that confirmed cases of the virus.  

Meanwhile, the government of Brazil--the epicenter of the epidemic--has reached a deal with University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston to develop a vaccine for the virus, with a target date of a year from now to be ready for clinical testing, according to The Washington Post. The Evandro Chagas Institute in Belem, Brazil, will also work on vaccines with the CDC and possibly pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, according to Health Minister Marcelo Castro. "This isn't just Brazil's concern; it's the world's concern," he told the Post.

These preparations come not a moment too soon, as new research published in JAMA suggest the virus, in addition to a potential link to microcephaly in affected infants, could also cause blindness. Experts stressed to MedPageToday that the direct link between the virus and microcephaly is not set in stone. Aside from medical side effects, the virus could also have a considerable enough economic impact to keep people from visiting affected areas, according to a separate announcement from University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland.

To learn more:
- here's the Cleveland.com article
- read the first announcement
- here's the AP article
- read the Post article
- check out the JAMA study abstract
- watch the MedPageToday video
- read the second announcement