Florida eye hospital officials are warning doctors to take their own precautions if they don’t want to be on the receiving end of a Zika virus diagnosis in the state.
In the past two weeks, Florida’s Department of Health has received more than 1,200 calls from patients who were unsure whether they had been infected with Zika.
As a result, the department is warning doctors that “it is not advisable for doctors to have any contact with patients” and to “not assume that Zika infection is the cause of any symptoms.”
The warning comes in the midst of a new wave of infections and deaths from the virus, which has been linked to severe neurological damage in infants, pregnant women and adults.
In a letter to doctors, Florida Health Director Dr. John Mays said: “While I am confident that our medical professionals are fully aware of the risks of the virus and are well versed in how to protect themselves and their patients, we are also concerned about the potential impact of a potential diagnosis by the public.”
He warned that “unlike in the past, the potential for infection of the eyes of the public has never been demonstrated in the laboratory.”
Mays’ warning comes as more than 10,000 Floridians are being tested for Zika, and officials say they are confident of testing results that they expect to come back showing that the virus does not cause the illness.
“The only thing that we know is we’re not going to see a significant uptick in Zika cases, but we know we’re going to be able to detect an increase in Zika-related hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Eric T. Gagnon, a professor of pediatrics at Florida Hospital.
Toxins are found in the blood, and Zika can lead to severe fever, headache, joint pain, muscle aches and joint stiffness.
But unlike other mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue, Zika is not transmitted by direct contact with the body, such a kiss or cough.
The virus is spread through mosquito bites and from mosquitoes, which usually bite people who are unwell or who have recently traveled abroad.
The outbreak of Zika has prompted fears that the outbreak will become more widespread as the virus spreads and people get sicker.
But Mays warned that the Florida Health Department is “still very concerned” about the outbreak.
“This is a very dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation,” Mays wrote.
“Because of the extremely high level of exposure to Zika, there is a risk of spreading the virus to other people and people who have been infected in the community.”
The department has received nearly 5,000 calls since late March, and the department has not received any new cases in the area of Lake Okeechobee and Miami Beach.
“We have to stay on top of this,” Molls said.
“If we can prevent it, we can do it.”
Florida Health and the Florida Department of Public Health are working with other health agencies to distribute vaccine kits and other supplies.
The department also is encouraging the public to avoid public gatherings and to wear masks and protective gear during the coming weeks.
“As the population becomes more familiar with the virus in the United States, we want to encourage people to stay home from work and schools and to limit outdoor activities,” Molls said.
Mays urged people to seek medical advice if they have symptoms of Zika, including: a rash or fever, weakness, headache or weakness, nausea, fever, cough, muscle pain, weakness in the arms or legs, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle or joint pain or stiffness, trouble breathing, difficulty talking or understanding, and changes in vision or balance.
Molls also advised people to avoid getting bitten by a mosquito.
“It is very important to remain alert,” Mills said.
For more health news, visit health.nfl.com/zika.
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