The Zika virus is continuing to spread,and it is estimated that the number of cases could rise to 100,000 by the end of 2016.1 Just less than a month ago, the death of an elderly man was reported to be related to Zika.2 It is a virus we cannot ignore. As an NP, what can you do to help? Knowledge is power in the fight against this virus, and NPs—especially traveling nurses—need to know everything they can to educate the public.
In addition, NPs need to know how to help treat the virus. Travel nurses in the ICU need to be as up to date on this information as possible.3 Since some questions regarding Zika are left unanswered, it is important that NPs continue to read up on any possible advances in its treatment and/or prevention.
Currently, it is known that none of the cases in the U.S. have originated from a mosquito bite but rather through sexual contact. There are countries where it is imminent to practice extreme precaution by using house pesticides and skin-protectant spray. If traveling outside of the U.S., be aware of which countries have the highest risk of contracting the virus. This information can be found on the CDC’s Zika travel information page.3
If transmitted through sexual intercourse or a blood transfusion, the Zika virus will present with symptoms similar to that of a cold (sore or achiness, rash, low fever).1 NPs must require all patients who show these symptoms to be tested for the virus--especially if pregnant. Although little is known about the virus, it is confirmed that Zika can be transmitted in utero and can cause birth defects, such as microcephaly.1
The CDC estimates that 80% of cases will go unreported due to insufficient testing.1 The healthcare professionals responsible for a patient’s care—NPs, critical care nurses, and traveling nurses—need to take extreme caution with all patients who exhibit symptoms, are sexually active, plan on becoming pregnant or already are, and provide the care they need.
Watch this video
to learn more about the virus’ origin and symptoms.4
To stay up to date on news regarding Zika, please visit the CDC’s website