Systematic Hospital-Based Travel Screening to Assess Exposure to Zika Virus

Aftab Iqbal; Robert Colgrove; Vito Iacoviello; Barbra M. Blair; Lin H. Chen


Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2020;26(2):315-319. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


We queried hospital patients about international travel in the previous 30 days to assess potential importation of emerging infections. We used 12 months of deidentified data to analyze patient demographics, travel destinations, and diagnoses for exposure to Zika virus. Our approach could be used to analyze potential infectious disease exposures.


Incidence of Zika virus (ZIKV) infections rose rapidly in early 2015, and local transmission was confirmed in 84 countries and territories by March 2017.[1] Although ZIKV typically causes mild symptoms,[2,3] in utero infection can cause congenital Zika syndrome.[4,5] The threat of in utero infection, along with sexual transmission,[6,7] led to advisories for women who were pregnant, or might become pregnant, and their partners to avoid travel to countries or areas with ZIKV transmission.[7–10]

After implementing reactive screening during several global infectious disease outbreaks, including the 2014 Ebola outbreak, Mount Auburn Hospital (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA) incorporated a standardized screening question regarding international travel into all hospital visits beginning in September 2015. To detect potential travel-associated exposures, patients were asked, "Have you traveled outside of the U.S. within the past 30 days?" Each quarter during November 1, 2015–October 31, 2016, we aggregated deidentified patient data to estimate the proportion of patients with potential ZIKV exposure and the possibility for congenital Zika syndrome.