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Zika Virus May Spread Through Bodily Fluids

Zika virus may be spread through contact with bodily fluids, which include tears, discharge from infected eyes, saliva, vomit, urine, and stool.

Zika virus may be spread through contact with bodily fluids, which include tears, discharge from infected eyes, saliva, vomit, urine, and stool. Until now, it was believed that the only known mode of transmission was through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito or through sex or blood transfusions. Pregnant women affected by Zika can also pass the virus to their fetuses. The report, which was made public in September by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals that a Utah man became infected with Zika after caring for his elderly father, who fell ill after contracting Zika during his travels outside of the US.

This report highlights the importance of adhering to infection control protocols. “These developments in our understanding of the modes of transmission for the Zika virus help illustrate why adherence to standard precautions in dental health care settings is important during every patient encounter,” Eve Cuny, MS—director of environmental health and safety and an associate professor of dental practice at the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco—tells Dimensions. “Dental health care personnel cannot predict which infectious organisms they may encounter when providing treatment that inevitably involves exposure to patient bodily fluids,” she adds. As such, oral health professionals are urged to always wear gloves, masks, and other personal protective equipment.

At press time, the CDC states that it has not confirmed which bodily fluid is responsible for this incidence of person-to-person Zika virus transmission. And according to Helene Bednarsh, BS, RDH, MPH—director of the HIV Dental Ombudsperson Program at the Boston Public Health Commission, there may not be too much cause for concern. “While many microorganisms have been isolated from bodily fluids, such as saliva, there has not been any evidence that the concentration is high enough to influence potential transmission,” Bednarsh tells Dimensions. “That said, it is the responsibility of every dental health care worker to deliver safe oral health care to protect themselves and their patients,” she adds.

Adds Cuny, “Every time we learn of an emerging or reemerging infectious disease, particularly those transmitted by contact with contaminated body fluids, it should serve as a reminder to be vigilant in our infection control and prevention practices.”

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