Travel Nursing and Zika

Being a nurse is one of the more risky jobs on the list of careers.  You risk being injured on the job or exposed to disease or illness that may be life threatening. Needlestick injuries and bloodborne pathogens tell only part of the story in exposure of infectious diseases.  A few years ago Ebola virus was brought to the US by healthcare workers,  Those workers who had been working outside the US.

Other Sources of Exposure to Infectious Diseases

As a travel nurse there are other concerns that you need to consider when looking at your next travel assignment.  Just recently Zika virus has become a concern in the US.   Zika virus, which is sweeping across South America, and now some reported cases in the United States.  There is some information that can help travel nurses keep themselves and their families and patients safe while working in areas affected by Zika.

The Zika virus is carried by the Aedes species of mosquito. Most have occurred in people who recently traveled to Brazil or other affected countries.  One case has been identified as sexually transmitted from someone who was infected outside the United States. There is now concern about it spreading in the tropical climate territories such as American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  These  trrritories favor the breeding of mosquitoes.  Local  outbreaks of Zika could occur in regions that have the Aedes mosquitoes, such as the Gulf Coast to include Florida or Texas.

ZikaHow is it Transmitted

When an infected mosquito bites someone, the virus can spread into the human body.  This virus can cause symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. According to the CDC, only around one in five people infected with Zika get symptoms. Symptoms are usually mild, beginning around two to seven days after the mosquito bite and lasting just a few days. Some research groups are studying a possible link between Zika and a paralysis disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome. Experts think that Zika could be responsible for microcephaly in babies that are born with small heads and underdeveloped brains.

How to Prevent Infection

The best way to avoid Zika infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Nurses can protect themselves, their patients and their families in the following ways:

  • Using window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Long sleeves, long pants and insect repellents can also help prevent mosquito bites.
  • Insect repellent safe for human are proven to be effective for use on the skin.
  • Insect repellent use on children and infants should be used only as recommended by physician.
  • A better approach is to cover the baby’s stroller or crib with mosquito netting to prevent bites.
  • People can also use permethrin-based repellents to treat clothing and equipment.

Travelers on assignment should check with your facility for workplace policies regarding prevention, detection and treatment of Zika.

Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a retired RN and US Army Nurse Major. She has over 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and once to South Korea. Her medical training began during the Vietnam era when trained as an army medic. She went on to train as an OR tech and then as a LVN/LPN. She completed nursing school and was direct commissioned into the reserve Army Nurse Corp. nurse. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and working in other medical facilities. During her career she spent years as an OR nurse, Occupational Health Nurse, Hospice Nurse, Forensic Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as being a Nurse Entrepreneur.
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