Monday, August 8, 2016

CDC Awards $16M in Fight Against Zika

Health officials are urging pregnant women to avoid a Miami neighborhood where mosquitoes are apparently infecting people with the Zika virus. The number of local transmissions of the virus has apparently increased to 14, Gov. Rick Scott said Monday.

While infection with the Zika virus is harmless to most people, it can cause terrible birth defects – particularly microcephaly, which results in babies born with small heads and underdeveloped brains.

In response to the news out of Miami, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday it was sending an eight-person team to assist local officials.

On Tuesday, the CDC said it had awarded more than $16 million to 40 states and territories to create “information-gathering systems” to quickly detect microcephaly. This money is a “stopgap diverted from other public health resources until Zika funds are provided by Congress,” the agency said in a news release.

President Barack Obama has asked Congress to allocate $1.9 billion to combat the Zika threat, but federal lawmakers have yet to act on the request.

The CDC has said repeatedly that it expects to see cases of local transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus this summer in warm, humid southern states such as Florida, Louisiana and Texas. The virus is typically transmitted through the bite of Aedes mosquitoes.

But U.S. officials said they don’t expect to see a Zika epidemic in the United States similar to those in Latin America. The reason: better insect control as well as window screens and air conditioning that should help curtail any outbreaks.

The Miami warning to pregnant women or those thinking of becoming pregnant is the first health warning in decades against travel to a destination within the continental United States.

“Despite the daily use of spraying, the vector control experts there were still seeing new larval mosquitoes and moderately high Aedes aegypti counts, which is not something that we had hoped to see,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden in an agency release.

The mosquitoes in the area might be resistant to the two pesticides that have so far been used, Frieden said, or they might be breeding in hidden pools of water that have not yet been found by response teams.

The mosquitoes have a short travel range, and Florida officials are describing the infections as a “small case cluster” that do not indicate widespread transmission. “The Aedes aegypti mosquito does not travel more than 150 meters in its lifetime, and often quite a bit less than that,” Frieden said.

My Take:
Sure we have A/C and window screens in S. Florida, but we do not really have mosquito control. Just west of the Miami’s affected area is the everglades, an infinite source of mosquitos. This “small case cluster” is just the first of many. They will not be able to contain the spread of the Zika virus.

I don’t envy public officials who have to underplay the significance of this threat to protect Florida’s tourism industry. Privately, I hope they are much more concerned and are working behind the scenes with a sense of urgency.

The Bottom Line:
This is a significant health threat. The Zika virus only creates symptoms in one of twenty that are infected. However, for those that do exhibit symptoms it is fatal for one in twenty. Additionally, Zika has also been linked to the paralyzing condition Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Source: August 2, 2016 National Institutes of Health

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