Zika virus gets rational response from physicians and patients



A few weeks ago, Ob.Gyn. News contributor Dr. Eskild Petersen advocated for a calm, reasoned approach to the Zika virus despite a climate of fear amid headlines about higher microcephaly rates among infected women in South America and sexual transmission routes.

New data show that U.S. gynecologists and obstetrician-gynecologists, and perhaps more importantly, their pregnant, or seeking to become pregnant, patients are doing just that. They are clearly aware of and monitoring the Zika virus, but not overreacting to it.

In a microsurvey conducted by InCrowd, a provider of real-time market intelligence to life sciences and health care firms, gynecologists and ob.gyns. were sticking to rather low-tech and commonsense practices, rather than extraordinary measures, to avoid the Zika virus.

Dr. Diane Hayes

Dr. Diane Hayes

Although 90% of gynecologists and ob.gyns. surveyed were recommending against travel to affected countries while their patients are expecting or looking to become pregnant, the doctors’ primary recommendations were use of mosquito protection and reading of online bulletins from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists prior to travel. Only a third of these doctors would automatically test for the Zika virus if the patient had been to an affected area. Physicians anticipate they could actively manage as many as 10 cases of Zika virus patients under their care.

What’s more, although 65% of the women surveyed were very concerned about the Zika virus, more than half of those considering getting pregnant would not delay pregnancy plans – under any circumstances.

Only one in four women reported that they are postponing any attempts to become pregnant, while 27% are reconsidering upcoming travel plans to certain regions in the United States.

“I don’t believe I’m at risk in the U.S.,” said one patient respondent.

Although Zika virus awareness among patients is high – 77% out of 629 prescreened women (including women not seeking to become pregnant) had heard news about the virus – precautionary behavior was not. A total of 56% of pregnant or would-be pregnant women surveyed said they currently use insect repellent, but nearly half are urging friends and family to take additional precautions to protect themselves against the Zika virus. And 20% of women said they aren’t taking any of the commonly considered precautions.

However, preparedness among doctors and hospitals, and U.S. government support for that, was an issue at the time physicians were surveyed on Feb. 3-5, 2016. Nearly half of the gynecologists and ob.gyns. responding said they do not feel prepared to treat a patient who has potentially contracted the disease. Only 34% of physicians reported that their hospitals have a Zika virus protocol. Those that do, have modified questionnaires to ask about recent travel, obtain blood for testing, and refer to CDC guidelines.

Although data werecaptured prior to the Obama administration’s $1.8 billion funding request to fight the virus, about half of both doctors and women surveyed moderately agreed that the U.S. government was taking strong precautions to prevent the spread of the Zika virus.

With data being obtained during the U.S. winter, when most mosquitoes hibernate, attitudes may be different come spring and summer.

InCrowd will track perceptions as this epidemic evolves. InCrowd’s mobile microsurvey captured data from 220 individuals, including 70 U.S.-based and triple-verified gynecologists or ob.gyns. with a minimum of 20 expectant patients, who as a group had an average of 100 expectant patients and 70 trying-to-get-expectant patients. The microsurvey also included 150 women between ages 18 and 45 surveyed between Feb. 5 and 7,2016, including 20% who were pregnant and 80% who were considering becoming pregnant.

Dr. Hayes has a PhD degree in epidemiology and is the president and cofounder of InCrowd, a tech market research company that provides real-time physician and patient insights to the life sciences industry.

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