Recent news updates about the spread of the Zika Virus can be alarming and bring up quite a few questions about travel and preventative measures. Currently the Center for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) has declared the Caribbean area at alert level 2, meaning that residents and visitors should “practice enhanced precautions.” They are not at this point telling people from staying away from these countries, but are instead advising to take precautions against mosquito bites (how the virus is spread) by wearing protective clothing and repellent and sleeping in mosquito nets. Symptoms, such as fever, rash, or joint pain, are mild or even non-existent in most people and will subside within 2-7 days, according to the CDC.
The Minister of Health in Haiti has declared several cases of the disease. In response, Grace Children’s Hospital is in the process of collecting information about the virus and preparing treatment training for the medical staff. In a week, a specialist from the Ministry of Health will conduct the training. Because Zika cannot be confirmed without testing, the Medical Director at the hospital is not able to report any official outbreaks, but samples from any suspicious cases are going to be tested by the National Lab. Because of the nature of the disease, symptoms of Zika can easily be treated at GCH.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared on Monday, Feb. 1 that the spread has been declared an international health emergency to allow further study to be done about the virus. The main concern with the spread is the possible link to microcephaly in newborns due to the virus being present in the mother. Microcephaly is a rare condition in which the infant’s brain is smaller and underdeveloped. Declaring the spread an emergency allows researchers to study if there is in fact a link between the two.
For more information about the Zika Virus, how it is spread, the areas it is affecting, and its preventative measures, please visit the Zika page on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. We will continue to update you on this measure as information becomes available.