Media reports have been exploding on the internet about the recent appearance of the Zika virus in more populated areas and its association with birth defects. The Zika virus is found in more than 30 countries with outbreaks in the Caribbean, Central and South America, and in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

There are currently 52 confirmed cases in the United States (US) from people who have contracted the Zika virus while traveling in areas with outbreaks. There is no known case of transmission of the virus in the continental US according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). To be prepared for the possibility of transmission of the virus, EMS responders need to understand how the virus is spread and how to properly respond.

EMS responders need to know does the Zika virus is spread.

Zika is spread from the bite of an Aedes mosquito, and of those infected only one in five people will exhibit symptoms. These symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, headache and conjunctivitis, which goes away in a few days. The concern about infection occurs when the victim is pregnant. The Zika virus is thought to cause microcephaly in babies, a congenital condition that causes abnormal smallness of the head and incomplete brain development. The disease may also be associated with Guillain-Barre’ Syndrome, a nerve disease causing rapid onset of muscle weakness and damage to the peripheral nervous system.

Is there a reason to panic?

EMS responders should not see a surge in requests for services since the symptoms from the Zika virus are mild and only last a few days. However, EMS responders should adhere to strict body substance isolation and respiratory protections protocols to avoid transmission of the virus. To determine if a patient presenting has contracted the Zika virus, an EMS provider will need to have good history-taking skills to determine how the virus was contracted. 911 center operators will need to ask specific questions about where the patient traveled recently and whether they were outside the US in areas experiencing the Zika virus outbreak. This information will be important if the disease becomes identified in a concentrated area of the US, especially in urban areas. The CDC maintains a Global Disease Detection Operations Center and monitors outbreaks across the world, including the spread of the Zika virus. More information about the Zika virus outbreak can be found on the CDC website (cdc.gov).

Source: cdc.gov/zika virus

Medtrust Medical Transport provides emergent and non-emergent ambulance services. We support patients and their families in Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Georgetown, South Carolina with a fleet of fully-equipped ambulances. Our goal is to provide compassionate and timely patient care.