Home > Property & Casualty > Zika virus rises to public health emergency status

Zika virus rises to public health emergency status

zikaLike so many other viruses or diseases that make media headlines, the Zika virus has proven to be the latest in a long line of “bugs” that has raised the public awareness of the dangers that appear from foreign lands and seem to be of an unknown origin. However, the truth of the matter lies far from perceptions and assumptions made in the media. What is not a myth is the risk that these types of pandemic exposures present to healthcare providers across the entire industry spectrum.

Unlike the most recent scare that made so many headlines, the transition of the Zika virus is very different from that of Ebola and other “bugs” that have caused pandemic headlines.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are some facts about the virus that are not always reported in the press:

  • About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).
  • The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.
  • The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.
  • Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days but it can be found longer in some people.
  • Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.
  • Deaths are rare.

With Zika being the most recent medical catastrophe to make headlines, we tend to forget the others that occurred all too recently. This list of “bugs” includes MERSA, Legionnaires Disease, MERS, Hantavirus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), West Nile Virus, HIV/AIDS, Marburg Virus, Lassa Fever Virus, H5N1 swine flu, Avian Flu Virus (H7N9) as well as the “old fashion influenza “outbreaks” that make the news before the arrival of each winter.

While many healthcare organizations make extraordinary efforts to prepare for the Zika virus and its impact on their patient communities, risk managers and C-suites must continue to enhance their risk management tools and practices in order to address the impact that these medical catastrophes have on their facilities. In 2014, Texas Presbyterian lost over $20M in revenue over a two month period following exposure to the Ebola virus. Additionally, their daily census was sown by 2.3% and the number of ER visits was down 3.7% for the same two month period. Each of these declines only highlights the need for providers to learn more about this issue and prepare accordingly.

With Zika now being categorized as a public health emergency, it is essential for healthcare professionals and risk managers to look at the policies surrounding their business continuity and disaster recovery plans. Dealing with insurance professionals who have seen what the Ebola crisis did to companies will help you prepare for the worst and make sure your policy has adequate business interruption language.


About the Author
Peter_Reilly.jpgPete Reilly is an Area Executive Vice President at Gallagher and the Regional Director of the Healthcare Practice. He has extensive knowledge in healthcare systems, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, and medical practice groups of all sizes. Pete was interview by Fox Business News regarding the Ebola Pandemic in October of 2014. 

617.692.0256 | Peter_Reilly@ajg.com | Connect with Pete on LinkedIn
Follow Pete @MedMalInsGuy
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