The Zika virus continues to spread. There is increasing evidence that Zika infection causes microcephaly in the unborn as well as post viral paralysis Guillaine Barre syndrome. Every day there is new information about the outbreak, and the CDC ( Centers for Disease Control) is the best place to learn about it.
Unfortunately, there is yet no hint about treatment, and a vaccine is 1-2 years the making at best. The WHO ( World Health Organization )has warned that ZIka is likely to spread to every country in the Americas except Canada and continental Chile. As of this last Friday, January 29th, the World Health Organization has reported 31 cases in 11 United States states and 1.5 million cases in Brazil alone. The WHO estimates that the virus could affect 4 million people by the end of 2016. About half of those will be women and an unknown percentage of those women will be pregnant.
In other news ACOG, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, has updated a “ Committee Opinion” which it distributes to all of its physician members. According to lead author, Dr. Allison Stuabe, "the goal is for OB/GYN's to own breast-feeding as a part of reproductive physiology”. The paper advocates that breast-feeding support should begin during prenatal care when breast-feeding can be discussed in clinic. Breast-feeding is still underutilized in this country and the world over.
The American Heart Assoication has issued a report saying that “heart disease remains undertreated and under diagnosed in women”. It goes on to explain that "The causes and symptoms of heart attacks can differ markedly different between the sexes". Compounding problems is that “ women are under represented in clinical trials for heart disease ", occupying only about 1/5 of the slots. Moreover the report indicates,"even when women are included in trials, researchers do not often parse out the gender specific data that could deepen scientists understanding of how the disease affects women”
Last year the Gynecology community was startled by the revelation that ovarian cancer is now thought to originate in the Fallopian tubes. Accordingly, ACOG made a recommendation that they be removed in the course of surgery for other benign indications. However, a new study through Yale indicates that only slightly more than 5% of eligible surgeries utilize this recommendation. In all fairness, this is relatively new information and the efforts to disseminate it were fairly modest. Additionally taking the tubes out takes extra time at surgery and entails a certain amount of extra surgical risk. I was once told by an old professor of mine that it was not good to be either the first one on the block or the last one on the block to adopt a certain new surgical technique.
This time the USPSTF (The US Preventive Services Task Force) has done something right. They have come out with a strongly worded recommendation to screen all adults for depression. They have gone on to particularly mention the need to screen all pregnant women and new mothers. They are basing this recommendation on new data indicating that maternal mental illness is more common than previously thought. New research indicates what has been called postpartum depression may actually begin during pregnancy and that left untreated these mood disorders can be "detrimental to the well-being of children". It is interesting that in the past the USPSTF has required proof of benefit to recommend any given intervention. Maybe today's announcement is a sign they will also begin using common sense.
Stay tuned for more breaking news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology next week on Medical Monday.