East Hawaii News

DOH Officials Visit CDC to Attend Zika Action Plan Summit

April 1, 2016, 10:19 AM HST
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atalanta, Ga. main entrance. Wikki Commons photo.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atalanta, Ga. main entrance. Wikki Commons photo.

Hawai’i Department of Health officials traveled to Atlanta, Ga. to attend the national Zika Action Plan Summit on Friday.

The summit, held at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters, provided officials with information and tools to improve Zika preparedness and response within the state.

Hawai’i has experienced a recent spike in suspected imported Zika cases, dengue fever, and chikungunya. Last Saturday, officials announced that several potential cases of Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses were being investigated on Oahu.

The latest scientific knowledge about the Zika virus, its effects on pregnant women, and mosquito control practices were shared during the summit.

Scientists say they are still learning about the Zika virus, its symptoms, and how it is transmitted.

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“The summit provided an excellent opportunity for Hawai’i to share our experience and knowledge while learning from other states about specific issues around the science behind Zika. This is especially important for our nation as we head into the summer months, when temperatures will rise and travel into and out of the country will peak,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “It is crucial for Hawai’i to have a unified outreach and response plan that is both scalable and flexible, and easily implemented at all levels of government.”

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Communication challenges and effective strategies to increase public awareness were among discussion points, including the dangers of Zika in pregnant women.

Pregnant women need to take special precautions against Zika virus and should avoid travel to areas where Zika is spreading, according to CDC. If a Zika infected mosquito bites a woman that is pregnant or may become pregnant, the Zika virus can be passed to her baby during pregnancy or at the time of birth.

Scientists believe the Zika virus may be linked to microcephaly in newborns, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared with other babies of the same sex and age.

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In addition, scientists say that Zika virus can be spread from an infected man to his sexual partners. It is still unknown how long the virus can be spread in this way after the infected male’s symptoms have cleared.

Symptoms of Zika are generally mild and sometimes don’t show at all, according to DOH. The most common symptoms of Zika include rash, joint pain, and red eyes, but can also include muscle pain and headaches.

Anyone who has a recent travel history to areas experiencing a Zika outbreak and who show symptoms should visit their healthcare provider as soon as possible.

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