Local doctor shares information from statewide Zika virus conference

Local doctor shares information from statewide Zika virus conference
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Dr. Robert Kauffman, TTUHSC, Attended Zika Conference
Dr. Robert Kauffman, TTUHSC, Attended Zika Conference

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - An area doctor has just returned from a statewide conference concerning the possible spread of the Zika virus.

Dr. Robert Kauffman, Director of Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, was one of only two OB-GYNs to attend the conference.

He met with veterinarians, insect specialists, pediatricians, disease experts and communications specialists to discuss how the state will handle the possibility of a Zika outbreak.

MORE: White House seeks $1.8 billion to fight Zika virus

What these experts realized is the unknown facts about the mosquito borne virus far outweigh what we do know about the virus.

The problem with Zika is more often than not, it goes undetected.

Only 20% of those affected see a low grade fever, conjunctivitis or see a rash.

"About 80% of people who get bitten and actually have evidence of the virus by blood test have no symptoms whatsoever," said Kauffman.

This makes testing for the virus difficult, and a possible vaccine is still years away from approval.

Those at the highest risk to develop serious reactions are pregnant women.

"If 80% of the pregnant women don't have any symptoms, how are we going to identify who is at risk for microcephaly," said Kauffman. "That is a terrible brain development issue that some of the babies are suffering from while they're in utero."

Kauffman said doctors will look for signs of microcephaly during routine ultrasounds.

When it comes to a cure, Zika is very similar to Hepatitis C, and drugs to treat that disease are being considered to combat Zika.

MORE: WHO declares global emergency over Zika virus spread

But that would require extensive tests before approval as a valid treatment.

Right now Zika is not expected to come to our area, but Kauffman encourages people to stay alert.

"It is very possible to see some Zika here. For the time being I think the biggest concern are those who travel to Central or South America. It's very important that they be careful about these day biting mosquitoes.

Doctors will continue to work with the Department of State Health Services to develop a more concrete plan should Zika continue to spread.

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