What Are We Doing to Get Ready for Zika in the United States? Medscape Asks and the CDC Answers

CDC Division of Vector-Borne Diseases; CDC Division of Congenital Developmental Disorders

May 04, 2016

Editorial Collaboration

Medscape &

In addition, efforts are underway to enhance state-based birth defects surveillance systems to rapidly ascertain the rate of microcephaly and other birth defects associated with Zika virus infection in pregnancy. These systems can also be used to link families affected by these conditions with appropriate local services.

This Zika outbreak is unprecedented. As data and findings become available, CDC is using new findings, including information from the US Zika Pregnancy Registry, to update clinical guidance and messages for the public. Every new finding adds to what we know about Zika and can direct public health action. The information that we are learning about Zika is directly informing our clinical guidance and testing recommendations. For example, CDC updated the recommended testing algorithms for pregnant women to reflect accumulating data on fetal abnormalities that might be consistent with Zika virus disease, including microcephaly, intracranial calcifications, and brain and eye abnormalities.

Providing information to the US Zika Pregnancy Registry will allow aggregate data to inform public health efforts at the local level as well as broader recommendations. Clinicians are key partners in this effort and can help by working with their health departments to provide information for the Registry.

Medscape: What is essential for healthcare professionals to know or do as summer approaches in the United States? What key reminders would you offer? What should clinicians do right now to be sure that their practices, hospitals, and communities are ready?

Obstetric and pediatric providers should regularly ask about travel history in women who are pregnant (or trying to become pregnant, including women who are actively undergoing infertility treatment) to areas of Zika transmission (including the United States, if this occurs). Clinicians should counsel patients who reside in or travel to areas with active virus transmission about the importance of preventing mosquito bites for preventing Zika virus infections. They should also counsel patients about the importance of using condoms to prevent sexual transmission of Zika virus from a man who has been diagnosed with Zika or has traveled to or resided in an area with active Zika transmission.

CDC developed and updated guidance for Health Care Providers Caring for Women of Reproductive Age with Possible Zika Virus Exposure and Health Care Provers Caring for Infants and Children With Possible Zika Virus Infection. CDC offers a variety of tools that healthcare providers can use, such as:

A complete list of tools for clinicians is available, as well as information on Collection and Submission of Body Fluids for Zika Virus Testing.

Clinicians can also participate in upcoming Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity (COCA) calls/webinars to learn the most up-to-date information and guidance, as well as obtain continuing education credits. Archived calls and webinars are also available for listening or viewing, including the most recent webinar, Updated Interim Zika Clinical Guidance for Reproductive Age Women and Men, Sexual Transmission of Zika, and the US Zika Pregnancy Registry. To join the COCA email list and receive call announcements and other clinical information, please sign up at

Clinicians should report suspected cases of Zika virus infection to their state, local, or territorial health departments and contact their health departments to facilitate testing. Obstetric and pediatric providers should exercise vigilance in surveillance of microcephaly and other neurologic defects. All providers can help by contributing to and completing case reporting for women and infants who are part of the US Zika Pregnancy Registry.