At the moment, the CDC acknowledges that congenital Zika virus infection can cause brain abnormalities and vision problems. Some infants may even have trouble swallowing and sitting up due to constricted joints, while others may cry continuously and appear to be inconsolable. Although much is known about Zika-associated complications there is still much to be discovered, especially in infants who are seemingly healthy upon birth. This makes follow-up care even more crucial, since it can also inform management strategies.
During the telebriefing, Dr. Schuchat and Dr. Honein commented on surveillance efforts in US territories, noting that previously, US territories did not follow a standard case definition. However, now, all US states and territories are reporting using the CDC’s standard case definition, which can be found online.
During the telebriefing, the CDC acknowledged the gap in Zika case reporting that was occurring in Puerto Rico
last year. Those on the call were assured that health authorities in Puerto Rico are now doing a “very good job” in terms of evaluating and reporting Zika infection cases, specifically among pregnant women.
In addition, Puerto Rico recently declared the Zika virus epidemic over on the island. Health officials made this announcement after assessing the situation and finding that there has been a sharp drop in the number of reported cases of Zika virus infection. The CDC is “very pleased the incidence is low;” however, they continue to advise pregnant women against travel to areas with Zika transmission, including Puerto Rico, especially in the coming months. When asked if the CDC acknowledges the epidemic to be over in Puerto Rico, CDC officials stated that they believe there are “low levels of transmission in some areas.”
According to Dr. Schuchat, this report indicates that Zika is a “very serious virus when acquired during pregnancy,” regardless of when the mother was infected during pregnancy. CDC officials also acknowledge that Zika has taken an economic toll on both families with infants who have Zika-related complications, and on tourism to areas where the virus is endemic. However, the CDC is working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reduce the economic burden of care for these infants.
Based on past experience with Dengue and Chikungunya outbreaks, the CDC reports that the Zika virus is an ongoing threat in Puerto Rico and other areas. The CDC recommends that individuals living in areas with active Zika virus transmission take the necessary precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
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