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Zika Virus: What Illinois Physicians and Patients Need to Know

  • The Zika virus is a primarily mosquito-borne illness that usually causes only mild effects, such as low fever, rash, joint pain, pink eye and headaches. Four out of five people with Zika have no symptoms.

    However, because of the growing evidence for a link between the Zika virus and the birth defect microcephaly, the World Health Organization has declared the current outbreak a public health emergency. The WHO has also reported an increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) in several countries in the context of the Zika outbreak. While a link between Zika and microcephaly or GBS has not been scientifically confirmed, the available evidence suggests they may be connected.

    What do Illinois doctors need to know?

    Thirteen cases involving the Zika virus have been reported in Illinoiscontracted elsewhere. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website features a map of countries and territories with active Zika transmission. Zika virus may also be transmitted sexually.

    The CDC offers guidelines for health care professionals, including specific information for obstetrical and pediatric practitioners.

    If your patient (especially pregnant women and small children) presents with symptoms consistent with the Zika virus combined with a recent travel history to one of the affected countries or recent sexual contact with an individual who recently traveled to one of the affected countries or recent sexual contact with an individual who recently traveled to one of these areas, contact your local health department for guidance as to whether a blood test should be taken.

    What do Illinois patients need to know?

    The CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health recommend that pregnant women postpone travel to affected countries or take precautions while there (use mosquito repellent, and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants). Men who have recently traveled to affected areas should avoid unprotected sexual contact with women who are pregnant or may become pregnant.

    CDC Recommendations

    1. Women who have been diagnosed with Zika should now wait at least 8 weeks after symptoms first appear before trying to get pregnant. Men wait at least 6 months to have unprotected sex. For those men and women who have not been confirmed to have Zika but have travelled to infected areas or have had sexual contact with a Zika infected person should wait at least 8 weeks before trying to get pregnant.
    2. Couples with men who have confirmed Zika or symptoms of Zika should use condoms during sex for at least 6 months after symptoms begin. Couples with men travelling to Zika infected areas but show no symptoms should use condoms for at least 8 weeks. Those living in an area with active Zika transmission should use condoms while active transmission is in the area.

    Resources

  • zikaIG link to neurological disorders and the birth defect microcephaly at www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/microcephaly.html link to world map of the latests transmissions reported by the CDC at  http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/active-countries.html link to local health department contact at http://www.idph.state.il.us/local/map.htm



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