The Zika virus is very different from Ebola. As the Center for Disease Control (CD) indicates about 80% of people who contract Zika experience no symptoms and require no medicine. It is transmitted by mosquitoes. With the Ebola epidemic about half the patients died in Africa, not so with Zika. However, Christie who likes to show he is a tough leader and totally in charge jumped into the fray this week with his own Zika plan, “holding up his use of mandatory quarantines for Ebola-exposed health workers in New Jersey as a template for how he’d handle the Zika virus nationally.”
Governnor Christie is our very own “mad man.” Mad because knowing so little about Zika he takes a crazy position. And mad because he thinks leadership consists of showing anger, which he aligns with strength – rather than paying attention to experts and implementing a medically based plan.
People who listened in on the state audio feed of Christie’s press conference on Ebola in October 2014 in were amazed to hear the governor tell his staff, before the presentation started, that in no uncertain terms he was going to take a tough stand. With no medical background he was aggressively ordering the health commissioner to use quarantine and firm measures. The feed was then immediately cut and later resumed when the press conference formally started. It was a rare view of Christie “taking charge” – ordering in a bullying fashion – on a matter for which he had no expertise. Indeed during the conference he said, “We are no longer relying on CDC standards,”
We know how that turned out. A nurse returning from Africa who had no symptoms of Ebola was quarantined in a tent with no toilet outside Newark’s University Hospital. She was detained for three days – two days after repeated tests showed no signs of the virus.
- About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).
- The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, muscle pain, and headache. or conjunctivitis.
- People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.
The Zika virus is rampant in central and south america, parts of Africa and areas where there is insufficient mosquito control. According to the CDC it is transmitted overwhelmingly through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The CDC has issued a travel notice for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Cases are appearing in the USA among those who traveled abroad. They are very few in relation to the large number of individuals who travel back and forth through infected areas, and quarantining so many people is unnecessary. Regardless, detecting the virus is difficult and the illness can be treated.
Of more serious concern, a mother already infected with Zika virus near the time of delivery can pass on the virus to her newborn around the time of birth. There have been reports in Brazil of microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected.
Our governor, rather than peremptorily calling for quarantine should listen to what the CDC and the World Health Organization say. In particular he should show concern for pregnant women and call for obstetricians, gynecologists, and pediatricians to be on the look-out for pregnant women and newborn babies who may have Zika. Unfortunately, Christie prefers to act out like a “mad man,” show his usual disregard for womens’ health, and ignore medical experts.
The CDC provides extensive information on Zika here.
The CDC’s Interim Guidelines for Pregnant Women During a Zika Virus Outbreak here.
The World Health Organization provides information here.