Tackling the Zika Virus: American Pharmacists Association Launches Web Page and New Session at Annual Conference on the Pandemic

In response to outbreaks of the Zika virus in the Americas and its designation as a global emergency by the World Health Organization, the American Pharmacists Association has created a location on pharmacist.com for pharmacists to access information on Zika and its prevention.

In response to outbreaks of the Zika virus in the Americas and its designation as a global emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO), the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) has created a location on pharmacist.com for pharmacists to access information on Zika and its prevention, and has included a session on Zika at the 2016 APhA Annual Meeting and Exposition in Baltimore. The Zika Outbreak: What Pharmacists Need to Know will be held on Saturday, March 5, 3:00pm to 4:00pm at the Baltimore Convention Center, Room 314/315.

“APhA recognizes the importance of collaboration, coordination and communication among stakeholders regarding any public health crisis,” said Mitch Rothholz, APhA’s chief strategy officer. “We see our role as informing and educating pharmacy professionals so they will be enabled to respond to any issues and concerns raised by the public. We see pharmacists as a vital member of the public health team and an accessible health care provider. As a result, we have added this new session to our upcoming annual conference.”

The Zika Outbreak session, developed in partnership with the Society for Infectious Diseases Pharmacists, will host two infectious diseases experts. Meghan Jeffres, PharmD, is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy. Timothy Gauthier, PharmD, BCPS AQ ID, is an antimicrobial stewardship and infectious disease pharmacist with the Miami VA Healthcare System. Jeffres and Gauthier will discuss: the epidemiology and transmission of Zika; signs, symptoms and complications; and strategies to prevent and treat infections.

Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted virus that generally causes no symptoms or mild illness, but is associated with microcephaly in infants whose mothers contract it during pregnancy. The virus is contagious, and in January 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory and travel alert urging women who are pregnant to avoid countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Prior to 2015, Zika virus outbreaks have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In the past 12 months Zika has rapidly spread to South and Central America and is predicted to hit North America this year.

APhA is playing a leadership role in informing the pharmacy community and public about the Zika virus. Just the Facts, a section on APhA’s website (pharmacist.com) has been updated with information on Zika. Visitors will find information about the virus including symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, FAQs and links to other resources.

As new information becomes available regarding the range of options for prevention including new vaccines, it will be included within APhA’s various programs and resources. This year marks the 20th anniversary of APhA’s National Certificate Training Program for Pharmacists on Pharmacy-based Immunization Delivery. The program has trained more than 280,000 pharmacists across the country.

“Pharmacists play a critical role in protecting public health and preventing illnesses,” Rothholz said. “We encourage the public to discuss their concerns with their pharmacists. If a vaccine is developed, pharmacists stand ready to help.”

Other APhA2016 sessions related to immunizations and prevention that will touch on pharmacist’s role with Zika include Immunization Update 2016 and Self-Care Through Your Patients Eyes: A Look at Efficacy and Safety Considerations.