As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) learns more about the threat of Zika virus infection on pregnant women and their growing fetuses, it will continue to share its knowledge with researchers, healthcare providers and the public.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) learns more about the threat of Zika virus infection on pregnant women and their growing fetuses, it will continue to share its knowledge with researchers, healthcare providers and the public, said Margaret Honein, MPH, PhD, chief of CDC’s Birth Defects Branch in the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, during the 65th Annual EIS Conference in Atlanta, Georgia this week.
“We are committed to sharing everything that we know, when we know it,” Dr. Honein told members of CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) and public health professionals on May 2 at a special session on Zika virus infection.
“Every new finding from a published study, each new data point collected as part of these registry efforts, all of this information feeds into what we know about Zika and directs our public health action,” she noted.
As the CDC gets new information, EIS officers help regularly update its clinical guidelines for healthcare providers of pregnant women, babies, and children who may be infected with Zika, as well as couples who may become pregnant. The guidelines are available on the CDC website:
“CDC is also maintaining a 24/7 pregnancy hotline for healthcare providers of pregnant patients with possible Zika virus infection, and through the service, we hope to address any concerns about clinical management and about the US Zika pregnancy registry,” Dr. Honein said.
“We are also working to improve access to contraception, because preventing unintended pregnancy is critical to reducing the risk of Zika virus infection during pregnancy,” she added. “This is particularly important in Puerto Rico, which has a very high rate of unintended pregnancy and has an ongoing Zika virus outbreak.”
Dr. Honein noted that the CDC has published a Morbidity and the Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) to highlight unmet contraceptive needs in Puerto Rico and that the CDC Foundation has received tens of millions of dollars’ worth of donations to help fight Zika, including the largest donation in its history.
In February, the World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency due to clusters of microcephaly and other neurological disorders seen in some areas affected by Zika, and CDC gave its Emergency Operations Center its highest activation level, used to date only in response to Hurricane Katrina, H1N1 and Ebola.
CDC has established the first US Zika Pregnancy Registry in collaboration with state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments to collect data about women infected with Zika during pregnancy and to follow up their infants for at least one year after birth to better understand the infection’s impact. It is also helping develop similar surveillance systems in Puerto Rico and Colombia and has sent CDC staff to Brazil and Panama to deliver on-the-ground support and enhance the surveillance of pregnant women with Zika.
EIS officers, who are medical professionals being trained by CDC to be its “disease detectives” practicing applied epidemiology, have been studying the Zika outbreak in the field and publishing their research findings.
“I think the EIS class of 2016 that is coming in now has a really unique opportunity to be part of history here as we move forward and better understand the impact of this virus,” Dr. Honein concluded.
Lorraine L. Janeczko, MPH, is a medical science writer who creates news, continuing medical education and feature content in a wide range of specialties for clinicians, researchers and other readers. She has completed a Master of Public Health degree through the Department of Epidemiology of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a Dana Postdoctoral Fellowship in Preventive Public Health Ophthalmology from the Wilmer Eye Institute, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School.
Source: EIS 2016 Conference Program, p 29: Zika Virus and Pregnant Women: Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes