Look to the experts – including Brandman’s – for Zika virus information
Educating the public about health risks has long been a part of Gail Petersen Hock’s calling as a nurse. So when information (and misinformation) about the Zika virus started spreading, the newest member of Brandman University’s Marybelle and S. Paul Musco School of Nursing faculty was eager to make sure the Brandman community would know where to find evidence-based information.
“I want people to know about the resources they can trust and that are reliable,” she said. “What we need to think about is prevention and that’s true of all mosquitos.
“I feel very confident about what we’re doing in the U.S. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) have been very responsive. Their posters and fact sheets are really terrific.”
Hock said at the top of the list is making sure there’s no standing water near homes to provide the perfect breeding area for mosquitos. “Even a glass of water left outside can be a problem.”
For those traveling to areas where the Zika virus is present, basic prevention includes wearing long sleeves and long pants. Although the Aedes mosquito which carries Zika, as well the viruses that cause the dengue and chikungunya diseases, is a daytime biter, using mosquito netting around beds at night is still a good idea, she said. The CDC has additional information for prevention and specific advice for pregnant women, or women who might become pregnant, visiting Zika areas. The virus has been linked to a serious birth defect.
“The images on social media are pretty shocking,” said Hock, who urges extra caution when relying on social media as a source for medical information. “I like to bring evidence to the forefront.”
Hock is active in shot@life, a United Nations Foundation dedicated to providing life-saving vaccines where they are needed most. Although there is no vaccine yet for the Zika virus, Hock said it’s often the first question she gets.
“At the same time we have preventable diseases that people don’t want to use vaccines for. The correlation between social media and that can be so dangerous,” she said. She recalled sitting next to the ambassador from Tanzania at a recent global summit and learning that Tanzania has vaccinated 91 percent of its infants against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.
“That’s better than my own community. Women there walk across rivers to get their kids immunized,” said Hock. She wants Brandman-educated nurses to know how to be effective communicators about the responsibility everyone shares when it comes to vaccines. Measles has been a recent concern in the U.S.
“The measles virus can surviving in an unoccupied room for two to six hours. If someone goes in and they’re not immune, they can contract it. There are documented cases of it being transmitted in empty elevators,” she said, adding it takes about 95 percent of a population to be vaccinated for a herd immunity to be present, that is, to keep it from jumping around a school.
As with the Zika, Hock urges both the public and her students to turn to the evidence. “We need to trust the CDC. We have to trust prevention, and we have to turn to the experts.”
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