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    Zika considerations

    Unless one has been living under a rock recently, he or she knows about the Zika virus and its trek across the globe. But with headlines full of “breaking news” just about every day and frightening new findings about transmission and connections to neurological conditions, there’s a danger of what is known about Zika being drowned out by sensationalism and rumors run amok.

    READ: Zika virus, Chikungunya, Syphilis infections increase in newborns

    Keeping in mind that what we actually know about Zika is dwarfed by what we do not yet know, and that new findings, connections, and recommendations are just about as dynamic as the epidemic of Zika information (and sometimes misinformation) flying around, it’s critical to closely follow official, reputable sources for information and to establish diagnostic and treatment guidelines. To separate the wheat from the chaff, referring to reputable and informed sources is vital. So, here’s what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has to say about the virus.

    Just the facts

    Zika virus is a single-stranded RNA virus of the Flaviviridae family, genus Flavivirus. Zika virus RNA has been identified in asymptomatic blood donors during an ongoing outbreak. During the first week after onset of symptoms, Zika virus disease can often be diagnosed by performing reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on serum. Virus-specific IgM and neutralizing antibodies typically develop toward the end of the first week of illness; cross-reaction with related flaviviruses (e.g., dengue and yellow fever viruses) is common and may be difficult to discern. Plaque-reduction neutralization testing can be performed to measure virus-specific neutralizing antibodies and discriminate between cross-reacting antibodies in primary flavivirus infections.

    Laboratory evidence of maternal Zika virus infection can include Zika virus RNA detected by RT-PCR in any clinical specimen; or positive Zika virus IgM with confirmatory neutralizing antibody titers that are ≥4-fold higher than dengue virus neutralizing antibody titers in serum by PRNT. Testing would be considered inconclusive if Zika virus neutralizing antibody titers are < 4-fold higher than dengue virus neutralizing antibody titers.

    The virus is transmitted to humans primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, which typically breed in domestic water-holding containers; they are aggressive daytime biters and feed both indoors and outdoors near dwellings. Zika virus can be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth, although it’s not yet known how often Zika perinatal transmission occurs.

    The incubation period for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week. Of those infected, only about 20% develop symptoms. Clinical findings are acute onset of fever with maculopapular rash, arthralgia, or conjunctivitis. Other commonly reported symptoms include myalgia and headache. Clinical illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.

    Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon and case fatality is low. The Brazil Ministry of Health is also investigating the possible association between Zika virus and a reported increase in the number of babies born with microcephaly; there have also been cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome reported in patients following suspected Zika virus infection.

    NEXT: Practical considerations for derms

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