Medical Monday: Breaking News from the World of Obstetrics and Gynecology 

Good Monday.

First the Zika news. Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has stated that "everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought”, noting that "the virus has been linked to a broader array of birth defects throughout a longer period of pregnancy, including premature birth and blindness in addition to the smaller brain size caused by microcephaly”. Additionally, she announced that "the mosquito that carries the Zika virus is present in 30 states, more than twice what officials originally thought. The maps at right indicated the territory of these mosquitos. Click on the image to take you to the CDC site on the subject. 

The White House has shifted nearly $589 million or over half a billion dollars in leftover Ebola funds in order to fight the Zika virus. This comes well short of the $1.9 billion that has been requested by the National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of this organization has announced that he will also be diverting funds from other areas in order to close the gap on funding what he views as critical efforts.

Florida leads the nation in number of Zika cases which last week totaled 84. Zika cases in Florida account for 23% of all cases in the states. Mosquito activity is of course greater in warm climates. It is expected that when the rest of the southern part of the country achieves these temperatures that Zika transmission will increase. The CDC has reiterated that insect repellent containing DEET are safe to use at any stage of pregnancy.

Zika is now associated a third clearcut disease entity. We already know a fair amount about microcephaly which is incurred by the fetus when a pregnant woman acquires a Zika infection during pregnancy. We also know about Guillain-Barré syndrome, post viral paralysis, which can effect of minority of people after a Zika infection. Researchers in Brazil are now reporting that the virus may be linked to "an autoimmune disorder known as acute disseminated encephalomyelitis or ADEM. In this syndrome neurological symptoms could start right away or as long as two weeks later. 

New research from the CDC indicates that white women between the ages of 30s and 50s are dying at increasing rates. This is been attributed to poor access to healthcare in rural America. In related news, a new study from Delaware has indicated that women enrollees in their state Medicaid program outnumber men to 2 to 1. State officials are interpreting this as an indication of increased poverty among women.

California has expanded the care that pharmacists are able to give. Perhaps most significantly, they are now able to prescribe contraceptives without the patient having to visit to another caregiver. While three quarters of physicians in one poll do not support the dispensing of birth control by a pharmacist, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists support this legislation wholeheartedly.

Delaware has modified its Medicaid policy to require that contraceptive costs be bundled with the hospital’s charge for obstetric care. The Governor of the state, Jack Markell, recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times describing this change and indicating his belief that it would allow for better family planning. He also went on to argue that contraception is vital to prosperity. 

The Guttmacher Institute recently released a study showing that teen abortion and pregnancy rates have dropped to historic lows. Teen pregnancy rates in particular have been cut in half between the years 1990 and 2011. The teen pregnancy rate in 2011 was 52.4 per thousand and, also of interest, is nearly 25% lower than the rate in 2008.


That seems like plenty to think about this week. Stay tuned next week for more news from the amazing world of Ob/Gyn.