Zika Virus in Haiti – Midwives For Haiti

Zika Virus in Haiti

It has been confirmed that the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus linked to microcephaly in babies born to mothers who have been infected with Zika, is present in Haiti. According to the CDC, “About one in five people infected with Zika virus will develop symptoms, which include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Other commonly reported symptoms include myalgia, headache, and pain behind the eyes. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon and case fatality is low.”

Due to the link (which has not yet been proven) to microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes, the C.D.C. issued a Level 2 alert travel alert (practice enhanced precautions) to women pregnant in any trimester or who are trying to become pregnant to avoid traveling to regions where Zika has been found. This includes Haiti.

An infant with microcephaly. Source: New York Times

Zika was first reported in Brazil in May 2015 and more than 3,500 microcephaly cases were reported there between October 2015 and January 2016 (Brazil typically reports 150 cases of microcephaly annually). Some of the infants have died. The C.D.C. says: “The full spectrum of outcomes that might be associated with infection during pregnancy and the factors that might increase risk to the fetus are not yet fully understood.”

Cases of the Zika virus have been confirmed in the continental United States, but all occurrences were in travelers who have returned from affected regions and no local transmissions were found. The first baby born with microcephaly in the United States to a mother who had Zika in Brazil recently occurred in Hawaii.

We are obvisously very concerned for pregnant women and their babies in Haiti.

Midwives For Haiti takes the health of our staff and volunteers very seriously. If you are planning a 2016 trip with us in Haiti and are pregnant or plan/want to be, we advise that you cancel your trip. For other volunteers, we recommend similar precautions to the chikungunya and dengue outbreaks: bring mosquito repellant and cover yourself with long sleeves and pants. If you would like to cancel or alter your travel plans based on this information, please email Sci at: info@midwivesforhaiti.org 

The following are recent articles on the Zika virus:

CDC issues interim travel guidance related to Zika virus for 14 Countries and Territories in Central and South America and the Caribbean 

To Protect Against Zika Virus, Pregnant Women Are Warned About Latin American Trips (New York Times)

Hawaii Baby With Brain Damage Is First U.S. Case Tied to Zika Virus (New York Times)