Zika virus and EMS patient assessment

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) must be prepared to appropriately and cautiously handle these calls

By Allison G. S. Knox, M.A., EMT-B, faculty member at American Military University

Recently, the Zika virus has been on the forefront of public health concerns in the United States. The virus is believed to be primarily transmitted from the bite from an infected Aedes species of mosquito. While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not reported any cases of people being infected in the continental United States, as of April 6, there have been 346 confirmed cases in the U.S. from those traveling to areas with outbreaks. There have also been reported cases of persons being infected from sexual contact with a person who has the virus.

The effects of this virus are relatively mild. The CDC estimates that only one in five of those infected will present any symptoms, and those usually include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). They only last a few days and rarely require hospitalization.

The major concern regarding this virus is for pregnant women, as the virus has been linked to cases of microcephaly, a congenital condition that causes abnormal smallness of the head and incomplete brain development in babies. In addition, this virus is also linked to reported cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which is a nerve disease that causes rapid onset of muscle weakness and damage to the nervous system.

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