Zika Remains a Public Health Crisis

By on 1:54 PM

In just the past week, there have been a number of developments that indicate Zika is still a national concern and likely to create havoc in the coming months.

Most concerning may be news out of Utah that health officials have yet to determine how a person became infected with the virus. There are two known sources of transmission: a mosquito bite or sexual contact. According to a news release from the Utah Department of Health, it is believed that the person who contracted the disease had not recently traveled to an area with Zika and had not had sex with someone who is infected with Zika or who had traveled to an area with Zika.

There is no evidence at this time that mosquitoes that commonly spread Zika — aedes species — virus are in Utah. The investigation, the release notes, is focused on determining how the person became infected after providing care to an individual who died from unknown causes and who had been infected with Zika after traveling to an area with Zika.

The number of disease cases continues to rise. As of July 13, there more than 1,300 travel-associated cases reported in U.S. states. New York has the most travel-associated cases: 339, which represents 26% of all cases in the states. Florida comes in second, with 229 cases (18%). There have been more than 2,900 locally acquired cases reported in U.S. territories, with Puerto Rico the source of 98% of cases in territories.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shared a report on the first reported occurrence of female-to-male sexual transmission of Zika virus following an investigation by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

There continue to be numerous reports of athletes withdrawing from the Olympics over fear of contracting the virus in Rio. On Friday, two top tennis players withdrew: Simona Halep of Romania and Milos Raonic of Canada. Not long after, Czech tennis player Tomas Berdych also announced he would not participate. They join a growing list that already included golfers Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy.

And there was the news of Congress failing to approve more than $1 billion toward federal efforts to combat Zika.

There was some good news: Public Radio International reported that a number of Zika vaccines are ready for human trials, although a lack of funding could stall their progress.

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC, is the founder and president of Infection Control Consulting Services LLC (ICCS). Phenelle has more than 30 years' experience providing customized comprehensive infection control and prevention services to healthcare facilities nationwide. Her services focus on assisting hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, dental office and oral surgery practices, doctor's offices, nursing homes and other organizations with implementing and maintaining an infection control program that: complies with The Joint Commission, AAAHC, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and other regulatory agencies; respond to situations of noncompliance; and improve the processes for reducing risk.