A Message from the Bay Pines VAHCS Director: Zika Virus Readiness and Preparedness - Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
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Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

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A Message from the Bay Pines VAHCS Director: Zika Virus Readiness and Preparedness

August 25, 2016

I write to you today to update you on an important and emerging health care issue.  On August 24, 2016, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) reported 15 new travel related cases of the Zika virus, including three in Orange County, three in Pinellas, three in Polk, two in Broward, one in Hillsborough, one in Manatee, one in Pasco and one in Volusia.  There is also one new non-travel related case that was reported in Palm Beach County.  To date, the FDOH has reported 523 travel-related cases of Zika and 43 non-travel related cases.  The majority of infections have occurred in men, while 70 have involved women patients.

For those who are unfamiliar with the virus, it is an illness caused by a mosquito-borne virus similar to those that cause dengue and West Nile virus infection.  People can also get Zika through sexual intercourse with a person infected with Zika and it can be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus.  A mosquito becomes infected when it bites a person already infected with Zika.  That mosquito can then spread the virus by biting more people.  Many people infected with the virus will not have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms.  The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes.  Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache.  Symptoms can last for several days to a week.  People usually do not get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.  Once a person has been infected with the virus, they are likely to be protected from future infections.

Whether you are staying at home or traveling abroad, preventing mosquito bites is the best way to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne disease like Zika.  Mosquitoes can be found in many different environments and you may not always notice when you have been bitten.  Mosquito activity in Florida can be year round.   To learn how you can prevent mosquito-borne disease, visit www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/mosquito-borne-diseases/prevention.html.

Across the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (VAHCS), we are taking proactive steps to ensure we are ready to respond and care for Veterans who may become infected with the Zika Virus. To illustrate this, I have included information from some of our local infectious disease, infection control and emergency care leaders who help lead our Infection Control Response Subcommittee.

  • Dr. David Johnson, Chief, Infectious Disease, Bay Pines VAHCS
    “Infectious Disease Section is helping to alert our staff so that we are ready to recognize patients with the symptoms of virus so that they can be tested and cared for promptly. We are providing educational opportunities and resources so that healthcare providers are up-to-date with the most recent information concerning Zika. We are definitely ready.”
  • Linda Brady, Section Chief, Infection Control, Bay Pines VAHCS
    “Our staff in Infection Control and Prevention work closely with the Public Health as well as our clinical providers to share the latest CDC information on Zika Virus. We do surveillance on any potential case, reporting these cases to the Public Health. We also assist in providing education on prevention measures to staff and patients.”
  • Dr. Daniel Leiding, Chief, Emergency Department, Bay Pines VAHCS
    “Our staff in the ER have been following the documented spread of the Zika virus.  We will be asking all patients about travel history where exposure is possible, and want to uncover symptoms, which are often mild.  Our hope is to consider and detect it early, and, in turn,  reduce the chance of spread to family, friends, neighbors, and loved ones.”

As a trusted health care provider of America's Veterans, it is our responsibility to stay up-to-date on Zika and take appropriate actions if and when a patient presents symptoms consistent with the virus.  As you can see, we are taking this issue very seriously.  The men and women we serve deserve nothing less.

Director, Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

Jason W. Dangel
Public Affairs Officer, Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
O: 727-398-9531  M: 727-798-1531
Email: Jason.dange@va.gov