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Are US Hospitals Really Prepared to Treat Zika? Recent Physician Surveys Suggest Maybe Not

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Post By Danielle Schroth

July 28, 2016

In February, April, and June 2016, InCrowd conducted three waves of surveys tracking doctors’ perceptions around the Zika virus (ZIKV). One major finding is that while doctors in high-risk states report that their hospital facilities have implemented protocols and guidelines, most of these same doctors also still feel that neither they nor their facilities are actually prepared to treat pregnant women with ZIKV.

Over the three waves of research, the number of OB/GYNs in high-risk states who agree that their facility has a recommended protocol for patients related to ZIKV has more than tripled, from 12 percent in February to 40 percent in June.

Similarly, despite a lesser risk, the number of physicians in low-risk states who have been advised by their hospital or clinic regarding ZIKV has also increased, from 42 percent in February to 56 percent in June.

However, contrast that with the only 4 percent of doctors in high-risk states who say that their hospitals are prepared to treat women with ZIKV. Through these surveys, practitioners have raised an important disconnect between what’s being put down on paper by hospital administrators compared to what is actually being done to train and equip providers who are treating women.

Many physicians confirmed that they rely on guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control or the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a professional organization of board-certified OB/GYNs, for ZIKV treatment.

One OB/GYN from Tennessee said “No formal guidelines exist per se other than recommendations to look up current CDC guidelines.” A concerned OB/GYN from Massachusetts, a low-risk state, confessed, “I’m afraid we’re behind the curve, and it’s only going to get worse.”

Zika_Preparedness_US_Wave3

When it comes to preparedness, the tracking surveys also asked women who are considering pregnancy or already pregnant about their plans given the possibility of a Zika-infected pregnancy. Most women in the United States will not postpone their pregnancy attempts because of ZIKV.

There was enough of a subset in high-risk states, however, who are considering postponement. About 30 percent of women in high-risk states will postpone any attempt to become pregnant, while only 10 percent of women in low-risk states are planning to postpone any attempt to become pregnant.

One woman from Florida, a high-risk state, said, “I won’t postpone any pregnancy because now is the time in my life when I would want to have a baby and, if I wait, it could be years before the Zika virus goes away.” Many women who do not want to postpone pregnancy plans echoed this attitude.

With so many new developments around how ZIKV can spread between humans, and how it works in the bodies of pregnant women, InCrowd’s findings around the discrepancy between doctors’ attitudes around their facilities’ protocols versus actual preparedness is an important finding. Also important is how women are planning and organizing their lives around the evolving dangers of this epidemic.

As the peak of summer approaches and the threat of ZIKV dawns on athletes in Rio, we will keep reporting on this pressing issue.

 

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