Zika virus is spread by infected mosquitoes, and a vaccine has not yet been developed to treat it completely. Symptoms often mimic those of other ailments and diseases, so it can be difficult for
medical professionals to diagnose. The virus is especially dangerous when infected insects sting pregnant women and mothers pass the virus on to their unborn child. Infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects. Healthcare providers not only face the challenge of treating patients who show symptoms, they also must adhere to regulations for coding and reporting.
What Is the Zika Virus?
The Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 in Uganda. Humans began getting infected in 1952 and since then there have been various outbreaks reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and Pacific islands. It is possible that many other places have experienced effects from the Zika virus and that they were not as largely reported. Fourteen cases were reported before 2007, but the symptoms of the Zika virus are very similar to many other diseases so it is very likely that people have or are suffering from the Zika virus and are not aware. Mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus have been discovered in places around the continental United States.
A person who is infected by Zika will not necessarily show any symptoms. It is also possible that they will only experience very mild versions of the symptoms. The most typical symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, headache, joint pain, conjunctivitis, and muscle pain. Zika symptoms are rarely extreme and people do not usually die. Many people who have Zika never feel a need to even go to a hospital because their symptoms are not severe enough. They usually last for several days to a week, depending on the person. Once a person has been infected, they are not likely to become infected again.
People at Risk
As mentioned above, many people with the Zika virus do not need to visit a hospital and experience symptoms so mild that they do not even realize that they are infected. Dying from the Zika virus is also very rare for most people. However, some people are at a higher risk to be severely damaged if they become infected with the Zika virus.
Pregnant woman who have the Zika virus are at risk for their baby to be born with a birth defect called microcephaly. Microcephaly is a condition wherein the baby’s head is smaller than other babies of their same size, sex, and age because it stopped growing during pregnancy. It often leads to smaller brains and difficulty developing. Babies with microcephaly have been known to experience seizures, delay in development, intellectual disabilities, difficulty with movement, balance, hearing issues, feeding problems, and vision difficulties. The severity of the issues can range from mild to debilitating and the problems can often last for a baby’s entire life. The Zika virus has also been known to lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, and other birth defects.
Diagnosing the Zika virus can be difficult because the symptoms mimic many other ailments and diseases. If a patient has concerns that they are infected, a healthcare professional can find out with blood and urine tests. Another big factor in a Zika diagnosis is travel history. If the patient has traveled to one of the areas known to have Zika infections, the likelihood of their ailment being Zika is significantly higher and the healthcare professional will treat it accordingly.
There is not yet any specific treatment to cure the Zika virus. Though it is still impossible treat the virus itself, it is possible to work on treating the symptoms. Focus on taking care of the specific ailments such as headaches and rashes is the best option. It is also important for the infected person to get extensive amounts of rest and to drink large amounts of fluids to prevent any level of dehydration. The infected person can also take medications that are available to help reduce fever and pain. It is vital, however, that they avoid aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in case they end up having dengue. Using those drugs when you have dengue could lead to bleeding.
There are also steps that someone caring for a person infected with Zika should take. They should avoid touching blood, body fluids, or surfaces with fluids on them without gloves on, as they are the most common ways that the virus is spread between people. After tending to the patient, they should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water to try to get rid of any bacteria or germs. If any body fluids or blood gets on the caretaker’s clothing, it is important to take them off and wash them with laundry detergent and water as soon as possible to prevent infection. It is also helpful to keep the infected person’s area as clean as possible for the duration of their illness.
Coding for the Zika Virus
Along with treating the virus, healthcare professionals are faced with the challenge of coding the Zika virus. The Zika virus is not included in the index under the term “virus.” The omission of the Zika virus makes it more confusing to try to code. It is also important to show in that it is a mosquito-borne illness. The best option for coding the Zika virus would most likely be A92.5. Only code a confirmed diagnosis of Zika virus as documented by the provider.
For pregnant woman who are infected with the Zika virus, the coding is different. There is a section under “Pregnancy, complicated by viral sickness.” The coding for it is 098.51-. After the dash, the current trimester that the pregnant woman is in should be entered. If the infant that is conceived has microcephaly, the coding is Q02.