Johns Hopkins Opens First of Its Kind Comprehensive, Multidisciplinary Zika Virus Center

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Zika mosquito

Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Credit: CDC/ Dr. Frank Hadley Collins, Center for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, University of Notre Dame. Photo by: James Gathany

As the number of patients with Zika virus grows worldwide, Johns Hopkins Medicine announces the opening of the new Johns Hopkins Wilmer Zika Center, dedicated to caring for pregnant women and newborn babies, but also men and women of all ages with the mosquito-borne and sexually transmitted virus. The center will also focus on long-term effects and prevention of Zika. It is composed of providers and staff members from adult and pediatric departments, and divisions at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, including epidemiology, infectious diseases, maternal-fetal medicine, neonatology, neurology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, pediatrics, physiotherapy, psychiatry, psychology and social work. Medical experts from Brazil, a country greatly affected by Zika virus, are also members of the center.

“We know there are other centers in the nation helping children and their mothers, but at Johns Hopkins, we have the most comprehensive team, made up of 12 specialties, at the ready and available to care for not only children but the whole family and patients of all ages with Zika virus,” says William May, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute. “In coordination with medical experts from Brazil, patients will be able to see physicians and staff members from various areas of expertise within our institution, including our school of public health and epidemiology. This gives us the ability to work to prevent the disease from further proliferation.”

There are many effects of Zika in adults who are not pregnant. The evaluation of adults for their potential of spreading Zika to their child is an important part of controlling this disease. At Johns Hopkins, care of the father, non-pregnant mother and pregnant mother are all important elements in better understanding and treatment of Zika.

The Wilmer Eye Institute led the development of the center. Zika virus is known to cause microcephaly, a birth defect that affects the brain but is also reported to cause eye abnormalities in up to more than half of babies infected with the illness, according to a recent study in Brazil. The Wilmer Eye Institute is able to diagnose and, in many cases, treat eye concerns associated with Zika virus, including cataracts and other vision issues, with state-of-the-art, specialized technology.

The Zika center team will also be involved in research to learn more about the virus, for which many unknowns still exist. “Our No. 1 priority will be focused on our patients, but our hope is that our care will also lead to many new developments in the effort to fight this potentially devastating disease,” May says.

Adults and children worldwide can be referred to the center by outside physicians or through several Johns Hopkins departments and divisions, including emergency medicine and maternal-fetal medicine. Patients can also call the Wilmer Eye Institute to schedule an appointment. A case manager will work with patients to develop a care plan and identify specialists with whom the patient should follow up.

“When a patient, particularly a pregnant woman, contracts Zika virus, it can be a tremendously alarming experience,” says Jeanne Sheffield, M.D., director of maternal-fetal medicine for The Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Our team will coordinate our efforts to determine patients’ needs and provide the best care possible.”

*This release has been updated as of Aug. 28, 2016.

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