CDC: Zika Risk Is No Higher at Schools Than in Surrounding Communities
Schools often become a focus of concern during high-profile disease outbreaks. In the case of the Zika virus, which is largely spread by mosquitoes and can cause birth defects, most public concern has been focused on adults of child-bearing years.
But, as most schools prepare to resume from summer break, administrators may want to be aware of Zika guidance for schools from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Zika virus is not transmitted directly from one person to another through casual contact," the agency says. "There is no evidence that risk for transmission on school properties will be higher than in other areas of the local community."
Zika is largely transmitted through certain mosquito bites and, in some cases, sexual contact, the agency says. Until recently, most of the concern in the United States was for cases in Puerto Rico. But the CDC recently issued travel advice for a Zika-affected area of Miami, urging women who are pregnant, their sexual partners, and couples who are considering pregnancy to avoid travel to the area.
But, "for most children and adults, Zika virus infection will not cause symptoms or will only cause mild symptoms," the CDC reports:
"While planning for possible cases of Zika virus infection in schools, educators should maintain provision of a safe, consistent, and effective learning environment. If a case of Zika virus infection is suspected or confirmed in a student or staff member, schools should continue to prioritize strategies to prevent mosquito bites on school grounds, to prevent further transmission through infected mosquitoes. Administrators, educators, and school health professionals can disseminate accurate Zika virus information to students and families, and prevent stigma related to perception of a student's risk for Zika virus through efforts such as dispelling of myths and ensuring no particular students or groups are targeted for social exclusion.
In the event of a case of Zika virus disease in a student or staff member at a K-12 school, medical privacy and confidentiality should be maintained. Because Zika virus is not transmitted from person to person by casual contact, it is not necessary to issue a schoolwide notification, and students or staff members with travel-related Zika virus exposure or confirmed Zika virus infection do not need to be removed from school. Isolation of persons with Zika virus disease or quarantine of exposed persons is neither recommended nor appropriate. Patients with symptomatic illness should receive appropriate supportive medical management."
Photo: A female Aedes aegypti mosquito acquires a blood meal from a human host. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is behind the large outbreaks of Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean. --James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP-File