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CDC Issues Zika Virus Guidelines in Wake of First U.S. Case

Maina Mehrotra11 months ago

The Zika virus is a mosquito-born infection that can cause brain damage in a developing fetus. On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued directions for doctors caring for pregnant women who may be exposed. 

About the Zika Virus 

Reuters reported that the new guidelines issued by CDC, warned pregnant women to avoid traveling to 14 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America. Zika, in Brazil, is being linked to several cases of microcephaly: a condition connected with smaller head size and brain damage.

The Zika virus has no vaccine or treatment, as it simply causes a mild fever and a rash. In fact, this virus is undetectable amongst 80% of people infected as there are no real symptoms.

The CDC is asking doctors to verify the travel history of pregnant women, and that doctors provide a Zika test to women who have travelled to regions where Zika is active. 

From there, those who have tested positive should receive an ultrasound to check for the two indicators of microcephaly: the size of the fetus’ head and calcium deposits in the brain. Also, they should be offered amniocentesis, the testing of the amniotic fluid, to verify the evidence of the Zika virus. 

The First Case in the US

Unfortunately, a mother who resided in Brazil last May and moved to Hawaii has fallen ill with the Zika virus. Her baby was the first in America to be born with microcephaly.

Early Detection of the Zika Virus

Dr. Laura Riley, president of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and an expert in high-risk pregnancies, has been working with the CDC on the guidelines and stated that it is important to detect the virus early so women have the option of either terminating their pregnancy or having a specialist on retainer during the delivery.

The guidelines are meant to give worried patients and concerned doctors some answers and advice because there are many unknowns, Riley said. 

The Unknowns of the Zika Virus

The accuracy of the amniocentesis is in question when dealing with Zika, especially earlier in the pregnancy.

Additionally, despite the fetus showing a smaller head size on the ultrasound, there is no clarification on whether the child will have the extensive brain damage.

Currently, there are no readily available tests for Zika, meaning advanced laboratory capabilities will be required – this is not a capability many hospitals have.

Paul Roepe, co-director of the Center for Infectious Disease at Georgetown University Medical Center, said it is unclear on the commonality of the infection in pregnant women and when in her pregnancy is women most at risk of transmitting it to the fetus? 

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