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Physician, be aware....

Tuesday, July 12, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: DCMS
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Physician be Aware……..

It seems that there is a new emerging or re-emerging infectious disease every year. Healthcare professionals hear about it and scurry around trying to learn as much as possible, as soon as possible. For most of these infections, physicians in the United States have no firsthand experience. Public health authorities make efforts to escalate their response, falling on their meager resources and experiences with previous emerging infectious diseases (no two diseases are alike). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also does an exceptional job of quickly responding. However, despite best efforts, the public gets alarmed and confused and no one in particular is to blame.

For too long, we have neglected these orphan diseases that were causing disasters in “far off exotic lands.” No more. These diseases are now only a short flight away.

Zika is the recent in a series of diseases that have come to our backyard. In recent years, it started with SARS and continued with bird flu, West Nile virus, pandemic novel flu, Dengue, Chikungunya, MERS and Ebola, among others.

While the previous recent emerging disease outbreaks did not occur in the U.S., although Florida did see its share, Zika virus is different. First, it follows Dengue and Chikungunya in the pattern in which it is spread, being that all three are transmitted primarily by the Aedes mosquitoes and we have a naïve susceptible population. The disease itself is mostly asymptomatic (80 percent) and when symptomatic patients experience symptoms similar to a mild “flu” with pink eye. Transmission of the virus to a fetus by a mother who gets infected during pregnancy, and the dreaded consequences of congenital infection, has gotten everyone’s attention.

Although Zika virus infection is known to cause other neurologic problems, including Guillain Barre Syndrome, the microcephaly and other neurological problems in the newborn are of great concern. Zika virus infection is the first significant congenital infection recognized in over 50 years. We still need to learn a lot more about it.

Although, many experts believe, based on the experience with Dengue and Chikungunya infections, that we may not have the explosive outbreak that was seen in Brazil and other parts of South America, we must be prepared. This is a fast moving disease with new information coming to our attention almost daily. The CDC has done a wonderful job and is constantly updating its advice to healthcare professionals and the public via their “Interim Guidance” documents and information on the CDC website. The Florida Department of Health is also providing regularly updated information to healthcare providers and citizens of Florida.

It is important that we review the CDC and Florida Department of Health (FDOH) websites (listed below) routinely and, especially, if we suspect one of our patients may be infected by the Zika virus.