DOH and CDC Issue Health Alerts on Zika Virus and Recommendations for Health Care Providers

On Jan. 19, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) forwarded this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health advisory on recognizing, managing, and reporting Zika virus infections in travelers returning from Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. On the same day, the CDC issued guidelines specifically geared toward pregnant women.

In May 2015, the World Health Organization reported the first local transmission of the Zika virus in the Western Hemisphere, with autochthonous (locally acquired) cases identified in Brazil. As of Jan. 15, 2016, local transmission had been identified in at least 14 countries or territories in the Americas, including Puerto Rico. The CDC says that further spread to other countries in the region is likely.

While local transmission of the Zika virus has not been documented in the continental U.S., Zika virus infections have been reported in travelers returning to the U.S.

DOH reminds Pennsylvania health care providers that all suspected cases of the Zika virus infection should be reported to them at 1-877-PA-HEALTH or to the local health department where the patient resides. In Pennsylvania, all human arboviral infections are reportable to DOH by clinicians and laboratories.

DOH’s alert also said that arboviruses causing symptoms similar to Zika virus infection, such as dengue and chikungunya viruses, are circulating in areas that have recently reported Zika virus transmission, and that no commercially available test exists for Zika virus currently. To facilitate testing of suspect Zika virus infections, please contact DOH at 1-877-PA-HEALTH.

This CDC Health Advisory includes information and recommendations about Zika virus clinical disease, diagnosis, and prevention, and provides travel guidance for pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant. It contains these recommendations for health care providers:

  • Zika virus infection should be considered in patients with acute fever, rash, arthralgia, or conjunctivitis, who traveled to areas with ongoing transmission in the two weeks prior to onset of illness.
  • All travelers should take steps to avoid mosquito bites to prevent Zika virus infection and other mosquito-borne diseases.
  • Until more is known and out of an abundance of caution, pregnant women should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctors or other health care providers first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip. Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their health care providers before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
  • Fetuses and infants of women infected with Zika virus during pregnancy should be evaluated for possible congenital infection and neurologic abnormalities.
  • Health care providers are encouraged to report suspected Zika virus disease cases to their state or local health department to facilitate diagnosis and to mitigate the risk of local transmission.

The advisory also included these links for additional information: