More than 4,800 cases of Zika have been reported in the United States and over 35,000 have been reported in US territories as of January 4, 2017. While most Zika cases are spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, Zika can also be spread other ways, including being passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, potentially causing severe birth defects, including brain abnormalities and microcephaly. Even exposed newborns who appear normal may develop microcephaly following birth.
With over 1,000 pregnant women showing laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection in the United States and its territories, it is imperative that pediatric health care providers have the information they need to guide appropriate laboratory testing and clinical evaluation and management of the infants born to these mothers.
In New Jersey, imported (i.e., travel-related) cases are the priority concern. Although the primary mosquito vector for Zika is not found in New Jersey, a different but competent mosquito vector is found in New Jersey. Therefore, local transmission may occur, but will likely be very limited.
The CDC recommends that pregnant women not travel to areas with Zika. If a pregnant patient must travel to an area with Zika, her healthcare provider should talk with her about strictly following steps to prevent mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika virus. Pregnant women with possible exposure to Zika virus should be tested for Zika infection even if they do not have symptoms.
To help you understand this ongoing threat and your responsibilities as a healthcare provider, the New Jersey Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics, in partnership with New Jersey Department of Health, is developing targeted educational initiatives, including outreach, resources, and webinars.
Key Facts for NJ Healthcare Providers
- Zika virus may cause severe birth defects. The full spectrum of effects of the virus is not yet known.
- The CDC requires that healthcare providers report any birth defect or brain defect on this list regardless of Zika status. In New Jersey, these conditions are reported to the NJ Birth Defects Registry (NJBDR) as soon as possible upon discovery or diagnosis.
- Zika virus disease and Zika virus congenital infection are nationally notifiable conditions. Per NJAC 8:57 Reporting Requirements for Communicable Diseases, arboviruses (including Zika) are reportable within 24 hours of diagnosis to local health departments.
- Visit the NJ Local Health Department (LHD) Directory to identify your patient’s LHD and obtain the needed contact information.
- CDC is monitoring pregnancy and infant outcomes following Zika infection during pregnancy in US states and territories through the US Zika Pregnancy Registry (USZPR).
- Visit our Resources page for more information and important links.
- Visit the CDC’s What’s New page for the latest on Zika-related research and guidance.