Zika virus: Hospitals develop strategies as outbreak expands

As worries grow about the threat of the spread of Zika virus, providers and public health officials nationwide are taking precautions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed more than 5,200 cases of the virus in the U.S. and its territories as of last week.

In Houston, Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women will open a clinic specifically devoted to pregnant women at risk for Zika infection amid concerns U.S. providers have officials have not done enough to prevent the spread of the virus. It's the Lone Star State’s first such clinic, according to the Houston Business Journal.

"In an emerging disease, where new evidence arises daily, having a dedicated group of providers who can keep up with large amounts of crucial information, understand what testing to perform and discern clinically important information and how to readily apply it is critically important," Kjersti Aagaard, vice chair of research in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Texas Children's and Baylor College of Medicine, told the publication.

Meanwhile, experts are working to inform the public on how to avoid spreading the virus. In Tennessee’s Montgomery and Union counties, public health officials are going door to door, according to WKRN, offering tips on mosquito control and information on the spread of Zika. The CDC will hold a Twitter Q&A for healthcare professionals on the virus on Wednesday in the hashtag #ZikaMedChat, according to AHA News.

As outreach efforts better inform patients about Zika, clinicians should be implementing precautions throughout their hospitals, according to Hospitals & Health Networks. “Our best approach is to prevent babies from being infected with Zika virus and to ensure that we do as much as possible to prevent these infections from occurring,” Denise Jamieson, M.D., the CDC’s deputy incident manager in Zika virus response told H&HN. The CDC has also updated its interim guidance for care of pregnant women who may have been exposed to the virus, urging testing for at-risk women who display no symptoms.

Implementing best practices for treating women who may have been exposed to the virus is vital, as new research published in Nature Microbiology projects an infection risk for up to 1.65 million childbearing women. The virus’ additional spread in the Caribbean and Latin America could infect an additional 90 million, according to the study.

- read the CDC's statistics
- here’s the Business Journal article
- read the WKRN story
- here’s the AHA News article
- read the H&HN article
- here’s the study abstract
- read the CDC guidance