Essential hospitals in Florida, New York and Texas — the three states with the highest incidences of Zika cases as of March 9 — are working to educate patients and providers about the virus before warmer weather brings the potential for a spike in the number of cases.
Florida had the highest number of Zika cases in the United States, at 49.
Mary Briggs, system director of media relations at Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, Fla., says at least one case has been treated by the health system’s infectious disease doctors so far.
To combat the virus, Lee Memorial has implemented an “early detection case recognition algorithm” that couples the hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) system with registration desk personnel in hospitals and physician offices, she says. In addition, Lee Memorial has worked with local media outlets to spread information about the virus.
“Our primary goal is to keep people from panicking and to provide counsel to women of childbearing age,” Briggs notes.
New York reported the next-highest number of Zika cases—25.
As such, NYC Health + Hospitals, another member of America’s Essential Hospitals, has disseminated Zika-related communications and alerts from the city, state, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to Senior Director of Communications and Marketing Frederick Leich. The health system also has posted guidance for screening, testing, and surveillance of Zika on its intranet and made patient information fliers for the city and state departments of health.
Meanwhile, Texas — where the first Zika case in the United States was confirmed — has had the third-highest number of Zika cases, at 19.
While University Health System (UHS) in San Antonio has not yet treated any patients for Zika, the health system is proactively working to prevent spread of the virus.
Patrick Ramsey, MD, MSPH, with UHS, says the health system has put systems in place to coordinate testing with local and state health agencies. In addition, the health system is working to make questions about Zika mandatory in its EHR system, he says.
But that isn’t the only thing UHS is doing to prepare for Zika.
In partnership with the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), UHS has offered presentations and webinars on Zika to hospitals, providers, and patients. In addition, UHS has secured funding — in conjunction with UTHSCSA’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Medical Student Interest Group — to enable medical students to increase awareness of the Zika virus and mosquito control measures within the community.
Ramsey says UHS also has “been very productive working with the media, the local health department … and volunteer organizations to disseminate information about the Zika virus and potential perinatal risks to pregnant women.” For instance, the hospital has worked with Alamo City Moms Blog to help inform the site’s readership about the Zika virus.
These efforts could prove vital, as all these hospitals foresee a jump in Zika cases when temperatures rise.
Briggs at Lee Memorial says, “We have not had any new cases in the past few weeks, but we do not want to be overconfident. We continue to monitor Zika closely as the CDC is learning more about this virus every day.”