Much remains unknown about the Zika virus and the consequences of infection. Following the concept that prevention is better than cure, dental professionals should be prepared to manage the risks, recognize the signs and symptoms of illness, collect and analyze thorough medical and potential exposure histories, assess the possibility for transmission, and provide timely referrals for evaluation and treatment. Consistent adherence to standard precautions is crucial for every team member. The effectiveness of infection control programs should be continually evaluated to help ensure that policies, procedures and practices are effective in preventing transmission.
Because typical clinical manifestations of the symptomatic Zika virus are nonspecific, its differential diagnosis is broad. Health care providers are encouraged to report suspected cases to their state or local health departments to facilitate diagnosis and reduce the possibility of local transmission. In New York, for example, laboratory diagnostic testing is available at the Department of Health’s Wadsworth Laboratories, one of only a few state public health laboratories that can test for Zika virus outside of the CDC.
Dental teams must also be able to dispel misinformation about the Zika virus and the illnesses it can cause by providing up-to-date, evidence-based information to patients. Clinicians and patients appear to be adequately protected by the use of established infection prevention protocols. Oral health professionals should keep abreast of any emerging epidemic or pandemic, including Zika. Some experts warn that climate changes, urbanization, population growth and international travel may place increasing numbers at risk of diseases such as Zika. Thus, health care providers must remain aware of emergent diseases and be ready to limit the spread of infection.
The CDC website (cdc.gov/zika/index.html) is an excellent resource for current information about the Zika epidemic. In addition, the Organization for Safety, Asepsis, and Prevention provides helpful information about infection control practices at osap.org/?page=Issues_ZikaVirUS.