The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released a set of revised guidelines for healthcare providers on 5 Feb,2016 catering to the needs of pregnant as well women of reproductive age that might be at risk of exposure to Zika virus. The revised instructions talk about diagnostic measures, looking out for symptoms, travelling risks and the possibility of spreading the virus via sexual contact.

Updating Guidance for Health Care Providers During Zika Virus Transmission

The connection between Zika and microcephaly is strengthening with each passing day. The CDC, in collaboration with other potent partners is working round the clock to warn and protect people against all possible health threats.

Mentioned below are the key points addressed in the revised guidelines.

Guidelines On Zika: Testing And Diagnostic Strategies

CDC spokesperson Tom Frieden reassured that testing for Zika was improving. Serological testing based on identifying anti-Zika antibodies in one’s system was stated to be “performing better than we’d hoped”. The new guidelines recommend that the test should be taken not only by pregnant women with possible symptoms, but also by pregnant women who have travelled to Zika-stricken places. The test must be performed between two to 12 weeks after returning from such a trip.

Moreover, women should freely discuss potential testing options with their healthcare provider. Addressing certain issues raised by women and their families, the CDC has refined its guidelines pertaining to the availability of serological testing.

Travelling Guidelines

Similar to the original guidelines, pregnant women who have previously travelled to Zika endemic areas and those that have developed symptoms must be prioritized for testing. The bottom line remains constant: pregnant women should strictly refrain from travelling to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing, and if such travelling is inevitable, extreme measures must be taken to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Controlling Local Spread

Pregnant women living in Zika-exposed areas should firmly follow steps to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. In fact, the CDC warned everyone living in such areas to avoid becoming prey to the primary mosquito species that spreads the virus, in the hopes of limiting local transmission. They are currently working with local and state health departments to fully implement these guidelines.

Precautions for Sexual Intercourse

Despite the primary mode of transmission being the bite of an infected mosquito, cases have been reported where the virus was spread via sexual intercourse and blood transfusions. Hence, the revised guidelines urge men who live in or have travelled to areas where Zika transmission is active, and especially those with a pregnant partner, to consistently and effectively use condoms or abstain from sexual activity during the tenure of the pregnancy.

Identifying Symptoms

Lastly, the CDC highlighted the fact that symptoms of Zika illness are often mild – every four out of five people don’t even know they’re infected. These symptoms generally last for about a week. Hence, it is essential to monitor and report any abnormal physiological changes. After all, the risk of Zika infection depends on how long and how often a person is exposed to an infected mosquito.

Conclusion

Zika has no doubt become a natural formidable enemy, and the only way to tackle this infection is by laboratories investment, disease detectives, tracking systems, mosquito surveillance and control programs. These revised guidelines do a fairly good job of addressing the anxieties of pregnant women and their families. General preventive measures were also highlighted, which include using repellants, wearing long clothes, using mosquito screens, reducing breeding sites by removing stagnant water and implementing effective mosquito pro-cams to kill larvae and control mosquito populations.

For the time being, the CDC seem to be actively doing all they can to protect target and at-risk populations from Zika – how successful they will be in implementing these guidelines remains to be seen.