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The Zika Virus – We take it seriously!

At best, the Zika Virus is a moving target that is commanding conversation as well as research in the world of infectious diseases and the travel industry alike. We, at New Frontier Group, along with the entire medical community of the world, take this disease very seriously.

Based on the locale, the species of mosquito and other variables, this virus means different things to different patients. In Uganda (believed to be the virus’ birthplace in the 1940’s within the country’s Zika Forest), it has been around for many years and is a nuisance at best. In Latin America, the virus is spread by a different species of mosquito.

Early cases in the Western Hemisphere began to surface last May, when an outbreak occurred in Brazil. How it was transmitted into the Americas and how it is developing and mutating, is still unclear. While all of the evidence is not fully established, it is highly worrisome that the virus is directly related to infecting pregnant women giving birth to babies with infant deformities such as microcephaly. The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested that the virus is associated with the rare neurological disorder known as Gillian-Barr Syndrome attacking parts of the nervous system.

WHO also goes on to state that the virus will likely spread to every country in the Americas. They warn in a new statement: “Aedes mosquitoes—the main vector for Zika transmission—are present in all the region’s countries except Canada and continental Chile”. They go on to explain that many people in South, Central, and North America haven’t been exposed to the virus before and thus do not have immunity, so the virus is spreading quickly.

Symptoms range from fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, basically, mild flu like symptoms lasting a few days to a week.

While there is an unprecedented rush to discover a vaccine and a cure, presently, there is neither. Lab tests can be used and diagnoses are possible in the early stages. The symptoms can be treated with rehydration, rest and medications for fever and the discomfort.

Our Director of Discharge Medication Management Services, Pharmacist John Frick, suggests the following when traveling to countries where Zika viruses are spread by mosquitoes: Wear long shirts and pants, stay in facilities that are air-conditioned with screened in doors and windows. Sleep under a mosquito net if you are camping. Use safe repellants while touring. Mr. Frick notes that there are repellants intended to be applied to your skin and some that are intended to be applied to your clothing.  Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Dr. Andrew Park, a renowned emergency room physician and a founding member of New Frontier Group’s Medical Advisory Board, strongly suggests protecting traveling children with special precautions. Have the adults spray the insect repellent onto their hands first and then apply to a child’s face, arms and legs. Never apply the repellent onto the child’s eyes, mouth, hands or irritated skin. Dress the child with adequate protective clothing and cover the crib or stroller with mosquito netting.

Health agency warnings are sure to have an effect on the tourism travel industry especially in regions most affected by the virus.  There are increased questions in our travel industry about the upcoming 2016 Olympics in Rio this summer. It is our understanding that many precautionary and preventative measures are being taken well in advance. Mosquito breeding grounds are being eliminated as well as ongoing measures during the Olympic Games. As for the athletes, infectious disease specialists have been retained by the U.S. Olympic Committee to consult privately with any athlete as to precautions and related issues.

As CEO of New Frontier Group I assure all of our clients that our executive team and our industry exclusive Medical Advisory Board will be closely monitoring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The World Health Organization in the months to come in an effort to remain a leader in managing patients through these rapidly changing challenges. We believe that by educating our clients and patients about best practices and positive outcomes, we will be well positioned to stay a step ahead of these ever changing diseases that directly affect our industry. We invite you to reach out to us if we can be of help or assistance in answering any questions in this respect.

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