Zika virus: Arming parents for prevention

June 27, 2016

Over the past several months, we have received information from news reports, local and state departments of health, and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the Zika virus, a mosquito-transmitted disease, and the devastating outcomes experienced by some pregnant women who contracted the Zika virus during pregnancy.

Over the past several months, we have received information from news reports, local and state departments of health, and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the Zika virus, a mosquito-transmitted disease, and the devastating outcomes experienced by some pregnant women who contracted the Zika virus during pregnancy. The summer season is starting in the United States, and many parents are now concerned, even more so than in past years, about themselves, if they are planning a pregnancy, or are pregnant, as well as for their infants and young children and the effects of exposure to mosquito bites.

Parents of our patients do travel to countries that have the infected mosquitoes, thus we must be knowledgeable about safe and effective mosquito bite preventive measures. The Special Report, Zika Virus: Top mosquito repellent recommendations, by Ms Hilton, provides a summary of expert opinions from dermatologists around the country on the use of mosquito repellents, clothing, and bed netting as primary preventive measures. As pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs), we must examine the list of repellents and be aware of repellents that are safe and not safe for use in infants and young children. We must help parents make informed decisions about the use of insect repellents for their children.

Be sure to ask

One major history question that all medical providers must ask parents, as we learned during the Ebola outbreak, is about summer travel plans and recent travels to countries that are on the CDC list of countries with mosquitos that carry the Zika virus. The CDC keeps everyone updated on this important topic. Show your parents the information and encourage them to actively review the website. As a provider, you can register to receive direct communication from the CDC to your email, which will keep you updated on not only the Zika virus, but other information pertinent for your practice. Providers who have children in their practices who are traveling to Brazil with their parents for the summer Olympics, either as a spectator or as a young athlete, must be apprised of the risks and primary prevention strategies. As Ms Hilton mentions, there is clothing that can be worn and bed netting that should be used to prevent mosquito bites.

We know that parents trust their PNPs and all pediatric providers, thus, we must also be prepared for questions from parents about recommendations to delay pregnancy for those who must travel ‘home’ to a country that is on the list of countries with a Zika virus epidemic. The questions may be challenging, and so we should be prepared to provide the best scientific evidence currently available to the parents to enable them to make an informed decision about travel and safety precautions.