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    Zika: How to counsel concerned patients

    Zika virus infection is a brand new disease in the western Hemisphere, and, to date, there are only a limited number of cases reported in the United States. The situation may change in the coming months. For that reason and because rash is one of the most common features of Zika virus infection, dermatologists may find themselves playing a role in diagnosis and management, said Captain David M. Morens, M.D., senior advisor to the director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

    READ — Zika virus: What derms need to look out for

    “Zika virus infection was first reported in the 1940s, but until recently cases were limited to the tropical belt regions of Africa and Asia. Therefore, virtually no one in the United States will be immune to this infection,” Dr. Morens says.

    “Now with outbreaks of Zika virus infection in countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean, more cases of Zika in the United States are anticipated, particularly involving people who acquire the infection when traveling to those regions.”

    Counseling patients

    If asked, dermatologists can counsel patients that Zika virus infection is a relatively harmless disease for the affected individual. Some patients may develop Guillain-Barré syndrome as a later complication, but there is almost no likelihood of death or even becoming severely ill, and only about 20% of people who are infected with Zika develop recognizable symptoms.

    NEXT: Viral features

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