Zika Virus: Suggestions for Home Care and Hospice Agencies

In an effort to prevent infection during pregnancy and serious birth defects, an experimental vaccine was created earlier this year by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). This study will be tested at three different sites.

Zika virus disease continues to hit the headlines. Currently, we have 15 cases of Zika virus in Florida. The cases are likely the first known occurrence of local mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission in the continental United States. Right now, there is not an approved vaccine for Zika.


Zika Resources

Zika- Implications for Home Care and Hospice excelthumb
What Can Be Done – CDC’s Response to Zika excelthumb
PREGNANT? Read this before you travel– CDC’s Response to Zika excelthumb
Interim Guidance for Protecting Workers from Occupational Exposure to Zika Virus excelthumb
Mosquito Bite Prevention (English) excelthumb
Mosquito Bite Prevention (Spanish) excelthumb
ZIKA: The Basics of the Virus and How to Protect Against It (English) excelthumb
ZIKA: The Basics of the Virus and How to Protect Against It (Spanish) excelthumb

Zika virus spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus), but can also be spread during sex by a person infected with Zika. There is also an indication that Zika can spread through blood transfusions. It is still undetermined as to the possibility of transmission through breast milk, organ or tissue transplantation. Currently, animals do not appear to be involved in the transmission of the disease.

There is still one case in Utah in which the mode of transmission has not yet been determined. This particular case involves a family member caring for his infected father.

Most people infected with Zika are asymptomatic. The illness is usually mild. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. There has been rare association with Guillain-Barre syndrome. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect of the brain called microcencephaly and other severe fetal birth defects. Long term effects, if any, of Zika are not yet known.

The following recommendations need to be taken into consideration regarding Zika virus:

Patients

  • Patients and family members should be advised about travel in areas where Zika is present
  • The CDC has great teaching tools and handouts
  • Agencies should instruct caregivers, especially family care givers, to use standard precautions, wash hands frequently and use personal protective equipment (PPE) as indicated

Employees

  • Agencies should provide education to all employees
  • Employee travel history (as with Ebola) is important as many of our employees travel out of the country for vacation and to visit family
  • Providers should monitor employee illnesses for possible signs and symptoms of Zika
  • Home care and hospice providers should stay current on the Zika situation

Educate both patient and employee concerning:

  • Eliminating and avoiding standing water
  • Avoiding areas with a lot of high grasses, leaves, wooded areas
  • Use only EPA approved insect repellent as appropriate
  • Hand washing
  • Use of condoms or abstaining from sexual activity for those diagnosed with the virus

For the full article on the NAHC website, click here.