IM-16 Annual Oration: Zika – Responding to the Challenges of an Emerging Infection
In delivering the Annual Oration at the Interim Meeting, Alfred DeMaria, Jr., M.D., Medical Director for the Bureau of Infectious Disease of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, urged physicians to understand the origins of the Zika virus and to grasp its symptoms and dangers to become better prepared to treat patients should they become infected. He also encouraged physicians to stay abreast of ongoing research into the virus’ symptoms. While there is currently no known vaccine or medicine for Zika, medical researchers are striving to develop better preventive and treatment methods.
Dr. DeMaria said that Zika was first discovered over 70 years ago by medical researchers in Uganda. It was limited in its scope of infection to a few cases, most in that region. Since 2007, however, due in large part to global travel, Zika has become an emerging infection that has spread and infected millions worldwide.
Spread mostly by the infected Aedes aegypti mosquito that bites humans during the day and night, Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection that occurs during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects, including microcephaly. Dr. DeMaria noted that 40 percent of all calls to the state’s epidemiology information telephone line are Zika related. The state has also set up an informational website. Because Massachusetts already tracks mosquitos for West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis, the state is prepared to respond to the emerging virus and very few cases have been reported in the state.
Dr. DeMaria’s presentation may be viewed here.