Health Care

CDC to host Zika virus conference call with Florida healthcare workers

No new cases of Zika infection have been reported in Florida since Monday, but more help is on the way from the federal government as requested by Gov. Rick Scott to prepare for the rapidly spreading virus that appears to pose the greatest threat to pregnant women and their unborn children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will host a conference via telephone and Internet Thursday with Florida obstetricians and gynecologists, family physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers to learn more about how Zika is transmitted, its symptoms, treatments and precautions against the infectious disease.

Concern over Zika virus has gripped the global public health community in the past month, with the World Health Organization declaring the virus a health emergency on Feb. 1 as it spread rapidly across South America and the Caribbean.

The Brazil Ministry of Health estimates that 440,000 to 1.3 million suspected cases of Zika virus infection occurred in the country in 2015.

Physicians and public health officials still lack the basic scientific research to understand precisely how Zika spreads or to establish a causal connection with a concurrent spike in microcephaly, a congenital birth defect, and other neurological disorders following outbreaks of the virus in Brazil in 2015 and in French Polynesia in 2014.

Zika symptoms include rash, joint pain, red eyes and fever, though they are generally considered mild and not life threatening.

The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and potentially also through sexual contact, as health officials believe occurred in Texas this year. Public health officials advise people in regions affected by the virus to use insect repellent such as DEET to avoid bites.

Most people infected with Zika virus will not show any clear symptoms. However, in about one in five people, Zika causes a mild disease, with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.

Currently, there are 16 confirmed cases of Zika infection across seven counties in Florida, including six in Miami-Dade and two in Broward. All of the cases were acquired outside the country, and none involve pregnant women.

The state’s Department of Health is tasked with communicating to state healthcare workers the details for participating in the conference, though the agency had not announced that information as of Wednesday afternoon.

Daniel Chang: 305-376-2012, @dchangmiami


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