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Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Zika Virus - US Congress must fund prevention progress

Sadly, the the Zika virus is spreading while the US Congress has obstructed additional funding to support progress for fighting this mosquito carried infection.  

Check out this "Mosquito Squad" newsletter at this link for current information about the Zika virus.

Now the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention is releasing the Zika data:

Infection Control & Clinical Quality- a newsletter report

2 more US infants born with Zika-related birth defects; 1,000+ pregnant women infected
Written by Heather Punke November 04, 2016 

Twenty-five babies in the U.S. were born with Zika-related birth defects, according to the CDC's most recent update, up from 23 the week prior.

The U.S. will likely encounter more Zika-affected babies in the weeks to come, as 1,005 pregnant women have lab evidence of possible Zika virus infection, the CDC reported this week, up from 953 in the update prior.

Zika can cause microcephaly and several other developmental problems in babies born to women infected with the virus while pregnant.

Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age. 

Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly.

Some hospitals are preparing to respond to this onslaught of babies who will need support — in Miami, Jackson Memorial Hospital and the University of Miami launched a Zika response unit with pediatricians, infectious disease specialists and other experts to monitor babies affected by Zika as they age.

There are 4,128 Zika infections total in the U.S. states, 139 of which were acquired locally by mosquitoes in Florida, the only state with active Zika transmission via the insects. Thirty-four of the cases were sexually transmitted.

In fact, the CDC announced the availability of $70 million in additional monies for states, cities and territories to support efforts to protect Americans from Zika.

The funds are being distributed to applicants through the CDC's Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Infectious Diseases Cooperative Agreement. 

Funding disbursement will be determined based on factors such as Zika disease burden, local Zika virus transmission and the presence of Aedes mosquitoes that carry the virus.

"The funding ... will further support activities to protect the health of Americans, especially pregnant women, including epidemiologic surveillance and investigation, improving mosquito control and monitoring, and strengthening laboratory capacity. Funding also will support participation in the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry to monitor pregnant women with Zika and their infants," said the CDC in a release.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, this request for proposal funding (RFP) is too bureaucratic to meet the urgent need. Congress must do more to fund Zika prevention and this means making money available, without putting bureaucratic and competitive processes in place prior to approving funding requirements. Hiring more monitors, like public health surveyors, would be a good first step. This could be a person with the qualifications to educate communities at risk as well as to identify where help is urgently needed. Additionally, all pharmaceutical companies should provide pregnant women with free mosquito prevention information packets and protective insect repellents. Although these are small steps, they will build awareness by applying diligent surveillance to at risk populations. Moreover, offering free prevention tools are not expensive. Indeed, preventing even one Zika infection will have the effect of potentially benefiting an entire family, for generations.  

Our US Congress must respond with funding to prevent Zika infections,before even more innocent babies are born with virus related anomalies.

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