The recent emergence and rapid spread of the Zika virus presents a grave, new challenge for health systems and practitioners across the Zika-affected regions, as they work to address the unique health needs and concerns of individuals and families affected by the epidemic.
Zika is spread primarily through the Aedes mosquito – the same species of mosquito that spreads dengue and chikungunya – but the virus can also be transmitted via sexual contact. Common symptoms of Zika for an otherwise healthy adult include mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache, lasting up to a week.However, most concerning for health workers is that Zika is passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy.
While the symptoms for an adult are mild, Zika infection during pregnancy can have grave consequences for the growing fetus. Zika infection during pregnancy has been linked to an increase in birth defects across the Zika-affected regions, particularly a serious birth defect called microcephaly, which results in unusually small heads and brain damage in newborns.
As part of USAID’s Zika response, ASSIST has been implementing health systems strengthening efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean to provide targeted support to health systems affected by the Zika virus. ASSIST is working to improve the capacity of Zika-related health services to deliver consistent, evidence-based, respectful, high-quality care—with a focus on pregnant women, newborns, and women of reproductive age.
To learn more about our work improving care in Zika, read this overview and explore our Zika resources and publications below.
In addition to the resources provided here, ASSIST maintains a website in Spanish with exclusively Zika-related content: www.maternoinfantil.org/zika.