Zika Virus - What Camps Need to Know

Mosquito

July 25, 2016 Update

Concerns about Zika virus continue.  To date, 426 reported cases of Zika virus in the 50 states have been attributed to returning international travelers or their sexual partners whom they passed it to (and not mosquitos in those states), they now have evidence that local mosquito transmission of Zika virus infection has occured in Puerto Rico. Local mosquito transmission means that mosquitoes in the area are infected with Zika virus and are spreading it to people.  

In addition, the first death has been attributed to Zika - a Puerto Rican man died in February 2016 from a rare immune reaction to a previous Zika infection.

Scientists at the CDC have concluded, after careful review of existing evidence, that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Zika virus infection during pregnancy has also been linked to pregnancy loss and other adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes. - HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell

The Secretary announced a new program and investment of funds to fight the spread of the virus in Puerto Rico. This includes funding to expand voluntary family planning services, including contraceptive services, outreach and education, and to hire more staff. Furthermore, because Zika virus is primarily spread by mosquitoes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that travelers to Puerto Rico protect themselves from mosquito bites.

Top Tips for Camps

  1. Know the facts.  Review the CDC’s resources about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of the Zika virus
  2. Establish mosquito bite prevention protocols.  As with a number of other infections, Zika virus is primarily transmitted through mosquitoes. Review and implement the mosquito bite prevention protocols established by the CDC. If you work with young children, consider utilizing the CDC's Zika activity projects for children - Mosquito Bites are Bad.
  3. Examine your environment to reduce mosquitoes: All mosquitoes require standing water to breed and some species only require 4 days to reach maturity.  Take steps to reduce the number of mosquitoes at your camp.  This includes: eliminating standing water, attracting dragonflies and introducing mosquito-repelling plants.  An excellent resource can be found below in our resources section.
  4. Understand the recommendations for pregnant women. In April 2016, the CDC updated guidelines for health care providers in the United States caring for pregnant women during a Zika virus outbreak. These guidelines include recommendations for pregnant women who live in Puerto Rico, pregnant women considering travel to an area with Zika virus transmission, and recommendations for screening, testing, and management of returning pregnant travelers.The CDC recommends that health care providers should ask all pregnant women about recent travel.  Ensure that your camp health care providers understand the guidelines from the CDC.
  5. Communicate with camp families.  Families that understand your camp’s commitment to the prevention and spread of communicable diseases and infestations will likely be more comfortable entrusting their children to your care.  The CDC has just released new information and resources for families - Zika Virus - What Parents Should Know.

Background

The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile virus. Named after the Ugandan forest where it was first identified in 1947, Zika is caused by a virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.  In addition, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified some cases in which the virus has been transmitted through sexual intercourse, not a mosquito bite.

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, and the illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.  However, there are rare cases of death, generally attributed to an immune reaction to the virus. In 2016, the World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus an international public health emergency, prompted by growing concern that it could cause birth defects.The infection appears to be linked to the development of unusually small heads and brain damage in newborns. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged pregnant women against travel to nearly two dozen countries, mostly in the Caribbean and Latin America, where the outbreak is growing.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis. Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.

Treatment

No vaccine or medications are available to prevent or treat Zika infections. Only a trained health care provider can recommend a course of treatment for the symptoms.

Resources