Pharmacy Association Launches Zika Virus Education Initiative

MAY 06, 2016
Katie Eder, Director of Content
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Foundation is launching a Zika virus education initiative in Puerto Rico that will encourage women to consult pharmacists and physicians about ways to protect themselves and their unborn children.
“The NACDS Foundation is taking this action to help address an imminent public-health need by helping to educate and empower women in Puerto Rico about where they can turn to help protect themselves and their unborn children,” said NACDS Foundation President Kathleen Jaeger.
The association made the decision to assist with the prevention education effort in Puerto Rico based on conversations with public health authorities. It intends to leverage the effort by securing additional strategic partners to extend the campaign as needed.
In the meantime, the campaign is slated to start on Monday, May 9, 2016, through radio messages and subsequent online placements targeted at women in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico became the first US jurisdiction to report local transmission of Zika virus, according to the CDC’s latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Between November 1, 2015, and April 14, 2016, a total of 6157 specimens from suspected Zika virus–infected patients were evaluated by the Puerto Rico Department of Health and CDC Dengue Branch, and 683 of them had laboratory evidence of current or recent Zika virus infection by 1 or more tests.
Zika virus–infected patients resided in 50 of 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico, according to CDC researchers. A total of 17 (2%) patients required hospitalization, including 5 patients with suspected Guillain-Barré syndrome. One patient died after developing severe thrombocytopenia.
“Zika virus remains a public health challenge in Puerto Rico, and cases are expected to continue to occur throughout 2016,” the report authors wrote.
In response to those findings, the CDC recommended that residents of and travelers to Puerto Rico should “continue to employ mosquito bite avoidance behaviors, take precautions to reduce the risk for sexual transmission, and seek medical care for any acute illness with rash or fever.”
Concerns about Zika virus outbreaks aren’t limited to Puerto Rico, however, as a new mosquito species carrying the virus could put more US states at risk for disease transmission. Although the CDC needs more time to determine the severity of the threat, it’s already urging officials in northern US states to prepare for a potential Zika virus outbreak.
Some experts predict that Zika will become a permanent, low-level threat in the United States to the point that Americans will need to get immunized against it routinely. The problem is that a vaccine for Zika virus could still be several years away.
“Without a vaccine, we will not be able to control the future course of this epidemic,” stated José Esparza, current president of the Global Virus Network, at the organization’s annual meeting this week.
In the meantime, pharmacists should inform women that Zika virus infection could cause microcephaly and other severe brain defects, in addition to devastating pregnancy outcomes such as pregnancy loss. To prevent infection, pharmacists should advise their patients to follow CDC recommendations by throwing away water-holding containers and cleaning items like birdbaths and pet dishes on a weekly basis. In addition, patients should wear long-sleeved clothing, socks, and shoes when mosquitoes are most active, and also apply bug repellents on exposed skin.