Zika again dominates the news in Ob/Gyn. As of Friday, a storm system was approaching the subtropical state of Florida, where 43 are confirmed infected with the Zika Virus. Authorities think the storm may help spread the virus which is transmitted by mosquitos and sex. Meanwhile, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) does not have enough Zika testing resources. I myself experienced this last week when I was told a specimen we sent to the CDC would take “weeks” to result. We Ob/Gyns are not able to effectively work in time frames like this, and so this week we will have being having some words with the powers that be.
A new study published in Radiology has shown that Zika can cause many other brain defects besides microcephaly. They have thus far identified 8 major defects. One of the most common was ventriculomegaly, or enlarged ventricles and thinning cortex.
Thus far the Florida outbreak has been clustered around Miami. However Thursday, an isolated case showed up some 250 miles to the north in Tampa Bay, Pinellas county. It is still unclear how this occurred. On the bright side, modeling done by researchers at the University of Florida has indicated that the total outbreak should limited to under 400 individuals or less, considering all the southern states. They also believe winter will stop the outbreak, which would then recur next summer the same way. It is estimated that 20,000 pregnant women in the Miami area are taking extreme measures such as confinement indoors or moving to avoid Zika infection.
NewYork officials are noting that travel restrictions to Zika affected area not being properly observed by pregnant or pre conceptual women. How do they expect people to take these restrictions seriously when they gave full sanction to people traveling to the Olympics in Rio?
Dr. Kristyn Brandi writes that Zika is spreading more rapidly than anticipated in Puerto Rico, and that resources of information and contraception are not adequately available.
The chair of ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) has written a strongly worded piece which has criticized how politics has prevented the funding of an adequate Zika response. He and co author, Dr. Didi Saint Louis of Morehouse School of Medicine have called for the full funding of comprehensive reproductive health care to allow women to avoid or delay pregnancy. They have called on Congress to reconvene to deal with this.
In the non-Zika news, HPV virus is in the spotlight. This virus is responsible for abnormal paps, and cervical cancer, among other things. It has an effective vaccine which is meant for young people between the ages of 9 and 26. However parents remain wary to give it to their children. Research is being done regarding the prospect of putting it on the list of already mandatory vaccines which must be done before school entry. Surveys show that parents would accept this as long as there was an opt out provision. As of 2014, only 40% of girls and 20% of boys were vaccinated. It will be interesting to see if there will be those who decline the Zika vaccine once it gets developed.
Breastfeeding is practiced by about 80% of all American women when they leave the hospital. However less than a third keep it up for the recommended time. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that infants should get nothing but breast milk for six months, and that breastfeeding should continue one year.
Co-sleeping beyond six months has been shown to produce significant stress on women. Researchers at Penn State note this may be related to fragmented sleep and less time with partner. Perhaps this is related to the falloff in breastfeeding.
In the everyone-already-knows-this department, researchers at UCLA have discovered that menopause accelerates aging. In all fairness, what they have determined is that methylation increases in menopause, accelerating cellular aging about 6 %.
And in the we-should-have-known department, the “ baby simulator” program in high schools designed to deter teen pregnancy may actually be encouraging it. Graduates of the program with over third more like to have a teen pregnancy.
Stay tuned next week for more news from the amazing world of Obstetrics and Gynecology.