Is Your Clinic Prepared if a Zika Crisis Hits?
With the seasons about to change for the warmer across the continental United States, there is an increased chance that the mysterious Zika Virus will affect more Americans. So far this epidemic has been relatively confined to central and South America, but cases have been reported in Puerto Rico, and one Zika related death as a result. Clinic workers need to be aware of this possibility, and take special precautions to help prevent the spread.
One way that this can be done is by following the basic guidelines for biological waste disposal for clinics. The Zika virus is found in the blood, making it possible to be spread through the mishandling of any biological waste generated by a patient being treating for the illness.
What is Zika Virus Disease?
On February 1st of 2016, the WHO declared the Zika virus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. According to the CDC it is likely that the virus will continue to spread to new areas. The disease is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, but since the outbreak, scientists have discovered the possibility that the virus is spread through human to human contact of bodily fluids. This gives any biological waste generated in your clinic through the care of an infected individual the possibility of spreading to someone else.
For the majority of individuals infected, the illness itself is mild, and may even go unnoticed. Symptoms last from a few days to a week, and may include red eyes, fever, rash and joint pain. The only way to confirm the presence of the Zika virus is through blood tests.
More alarming for health care workers is the risk to an unborn fetus if a pregnant woman becomes infection. There is a link between Zika and microcephaly, a birth defect that causes the brain to grow abnormally. Some studies have also suggested that Zika is causing a rise in Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a more serious illness that can cause the lungs to stop functioning.
Knowing the heightened risk of Zika, clinics should be reevaluating their biological waste disposal procedures to ensure that the spread of this virus is limited. All sharps should be immediately deposited into a sharps container, and other biological waste placed into receptacles that are not accessible to the public. Taking the time to make sure that every possible precaution is being made ensures the safety of your clinic workers, their families, and the public.
The CDC is reporting that the Zika virus can be found in the blood of an infected person for at least a week after transmission. If not careful, healthcare workers and clinics can inadvertently help to spread the disease by not disposing of contaminated sharps, vials, and other debris which has come into contact with blood. Get your clinic in line now, before the onset of summer brings an influx of Zika to the United States.