The mosquito-borne disease known as Zika Virus has been dominating headlines across the world for several months, with doctors warning high risk populations of the symptoms and signs of the disease. The initial consensus was that while the severe symptoms are terrifying and problematic, death is a distant concern. This tune quickly changed last week, after an elderly Puerto Rican man died due to complications of the disease. The CDC reported that while the man had recovered from Zika Virus symptoms, he was left in a vulnerable state and developed immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). ITP attacks blood platelets, and compromises the body’s ability to clot. This tragic death at the hands of a bleeding disorder speaks to the true nature of Zika Virus.
The virus, while only mild to moderate in severity itself, poses an immeasurable threat to the host after recovery from initial symptoms has already taken place. Secondary infections and transmissions of illness after Zika Virus are proving to be fatal – which might just mean that Zika Virus is more dangerous than initially anticipated. Other deaths have been associated with Zika Virus, as three people in Columbia died earlier in the year and presented signs of a neurological disorder associated with the microcephaly defect that is often attributed to Zika.
Transmission of this disease is difficult to curb, but there are public health programs in place to help research and prevent the spread of Zika Virus. With minimal research and limited funds to conduct the research needed to combat the deadly disease, the probability of its continued reign is high. Care providers in tropical areas, or regions with high humidity and warmer temperatures are more apt to see symptoms of Zika Virus. Mexico, Florida, Puerto Rico, and Brazil are areas with high incidences of Zika Virus and Zika-related symptoms. States with more neutral climates can also expect a few cases, as travel-related Zika Virus has been seen, and will most likely increase during the summer months.
Despite Zika’s popularity in the media, there are still a number of questions around how it is supposed to be billed in doctors and medical offices. These questions will hopefully be facing clarification in October of this year during a wave of new-code inclusions for ICD-10-CM. WHO has proposed that code A92.5, Zika virus disease become the new standard for coding Zika Virus. In the meantime, however; A92.8, Other Specified Mosquito-borne Viral Fevers is accepted as the correct code for Zika Virus, as confirmed by the CDC.