A Unique Institutional Response to the Zika Virus Epidemic

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Abstract

In 2015, Zika virus rapidly emerged as a concern for obstetric patients and health care providers as the disease spread geographically and it was discovered that Zika virus infection had the potential to cause devastating birth defects. Essentially overnight, obstetric care providers were faced with an influx of rapidly evolving information and an increased workload. New systems, workflows, and personnel were needed to effectively address the new patient care needs fueled by the burgeoning Zika virus epidemic. The University of California, San Francisco responded by filling a Zika Response Nurse Coordinator position to take on tasks necessary to design a systematic approach for Zika virus management. The Zika Response Coordinator at the University of California, San Francisco serves as a subject matter expert who counsels patients and health care providers, arranges testing and follow-up care after potential Zika virus exposure, and helps design the screening tools, protocols, and educational material needed to manage the evolving Zika virus response. The position has enabled a Zika virus response that has been tightly coordinated, consistent, and thorough without overburdening health care providers. The Zika Response Nurse Coordinator Role serves as a template for how institutions can model coordinated Zika virus care and prepare for future threats that will necessitate a focused and rapid response. Timely institutional financial support is critical for an appropriate response to emerging diseases for not only Zika virus but future epidemics as well.

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