Zika Update

Author: David Kotok, Post Date: July 19, 2016

The US Senate and House must now take their critically needed summer vacations after not passing the funding of Zika virus-related measures. After all, they worked so diligently to (not) protect us.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is revising its guidance now that we have, in New York, the first documented case of sexually transmitted Zika from female to male. (Transmission from male to female is more common.) The virus was passed from a non-pregnant woman in her 20s to a man the day after her return from travel in a high-mosquito-risk area. They each developed symptoms, visited the same physician, and tested positive for Zika. (See: http://www.wsj.com/articles/zika-can-be-passed-from-a-woman-to-a-man-1468594818 and http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/16/nyregion/zika-virus-female-to-male-sexual-transmission.html.)

In Salt Lake County, Utah, transmission of the Zika virus from a travel-related case, an elderly male, to a family member who was caring for him, has baffled experts. The virus is thought to be transmitted from person to person only by means of mosquitoes or sexual contact, but neither vector applies here. The case remains under intensive investigation. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/19/health/utah-zika-case.html.)

On July 15, the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County announced that a travel-related case of Zika virus has been confirmed in a Manatee County resident. Manatee County, along with 27 others (see http://www.floridahealth.gov/newsroom/2016/07/071816-zika-update.html), now falls under Governor Rick Scott’s Declaration of Public Health Emergency for all counties with travel-related Zika cases. While all cases identified in the State of Florida have been travel-related to date, the risk is quite real that a local mosquito might bite a returning traveler and begin to spread the infection. For us, this risk now hits close to home, as Manatee County borders Sarasota County. Across the state, of course, the number of travel-related Zika cases mounts daily. Here in Sarasota, we share the concerns of all Americans who live in parts of the country (or who travel to parts of the country) where Zika may become endemic unless timely efforts and investments are undertaken to stop the spread of the virus. The window of opportunity to prevent a widespread public health disaster is closing. A single mosquito could change everything.

Readers may recall that Zika threatens unborn children with severe birth defects, most dramatically microcephaly. Ongoing research suggests several ways that the virus can cross the placenta (see http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/19/health/zika-virus-placenta.html) and confirms that, though an infection in early pregnancy has the most profound effects, Zika poses hazards to an unborn child at all stages of pregnancy. More broadly, it threatens all with the potential for neurological complications.

So why has our national legislature failed to pass a bill authorizing funding to prevent the spread of this virus?

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