Earlier this year, the World Health Organization declared Zika a global health emergency and months later, there is still much to be learned about the virus that is slowly creeping into the continental United States.

With that in mind, I spoke with Denise Jamieson, M.D., deputy incident manager in Zika virus response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to get a better idea of what health care providers are doing and should be doing with mosquito season in full swing.

“I think a key is to prevent and ensure all providers are practicing standard precaution throughout the entire hospital, and it’s particularly important to ensure those are being followed in labor and delivery,” says Jamieson. “Our best approach is to prevent babies from being infected with Zika virus and to ensure that we do as much as possible to prevent these infections from occurring.”

“It’s also important [that] clinicians think about Zika and consider Zika in their diagnosis and test when appropriate,” she added.

And though Zika infection symptoms tend to be mild, resulting in a fever or rash, the obvious risk is to pregnant mothers and their unborn children, which, we have seen, can result in such devastating birth defects as microcephaly and possible complications further down the line.

“There’s a lot we don’t know,” says Jamieson. “What we don’t know is if apparently healthy infants can develop problems later in life, and we don’t know the full spectrum of outcomes that can occur in babies born to mothers with Zika virus infection.”

What we do know is that the CDC's U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry has recorded 12 babies born with birth defects possibly due to Zika infection. And those babies should receive continuous attention and multidisciplinary care, according to the CDC in a Medpage Today article.

Some reports estimate the cost of care for these babies to be more than $10 million throughout their lifetimes. Congress is out of session for seven weeks, putting on hold the idea of gaining additional funding. And, according to a previous survey H&HN reported on, the most vulnerable U.S. states were underprepared to handle a possible Zika outbreak before summer started — and there hasn’t been much funding to help that. There's a lot still up in the air, but best practices should be continued. Check out the CDC updated guidelines below.

Updated Guidelines

  • The CDC updated its interim guidelines for health care providers who treat pregnant mothers with possible Zika virus exposure, recommending that providers assess pregnant women in the U.S. and U.S. territories for possible Zika virus exposure during each visit.
  • The group also updated its guidance for blood testing, recommending Zika testing for pregnant women 14 days after symptoms occur, a jump from its previous guidance of seven days.

Learn more about what health care providers should know about Zika from the CDC Zika page and the American Hospital Association Zika Resource guide.