As concern about the Zika virus is spreading just as quickly as the infection itself, so is demand for assistance in affected areas. That is why the White House is requesting $1.8 billion in aid from Congress to help fight this mosquito-borne illness expanding throughout the Western Hemisphere. The aid request comes after the Center for Disease Control’s Emergency Operations Center upgraded to a Level 1 status as a result of Zika, a level it has only seen three times in history – the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
According to the White House, “The requested resources will build on our ongoing preparedness efforts and will support essential strategies to combat this virus, such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs; accelerating vaccine research and diagnostic development; enabling the testing and procurement of vaccines and diagnostics; educating health care providers, pregnant women and their partners; improving epidemiology and expanding laboratory and diagnostic testing capacity; improving health services and supports for low-income pregnant women, and enhancing the ability of Zika-affected countries to better combat mosquitoes and control transmission.”
The proposal contains $355 million in aid for South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, where Zika virus is most active. The funds are intended to help spread educational awareness of the virus, provide incentives for the creation of a vaccine, support and training for healthcare workers, and healthcare support for those infected.
The bulk amount of the $1.4 billion will go towards prevention and response strategies to include enhanced Zika surveillance and laboratory response, education, and research in affected areas. Perhaps most important is the $200 million dedicated towards research and development of new vaccines and diagnostic tests. There is currently no cure or treatment for the virus leaving millions exposed as the virus spreads. An additional $41 million is dedicated towards aiding U.S. citizens impacted by Zika abroad through communication efforts, healthcare, data collection, and research. See the specifics of the request on the White House website.
The Pan American Health Organization currently reports a Zika presence in 26 countries. Although no cases have originated in the U.S., there have been over 50 confirmed cases in travelers here since December. The World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency last week, citing the Zika virus’ link to microcephaly – a neurological condition affecting newborns – as the cause. In addition to this funding request, the CDC is sending a team of scientists to Brazil to investigate the link between Zika and microcephaly.
Although Zika virus is spreading quickly and public concern has spiked in recent weeks, it is important to know the facts about the virus. Only 1 in 5 people infected will actually become ill, and even fewer will need medical attention. The usual symptoms include headache, fever, rash, and joint pain, which last for 2-7 days on average. The threat posed to pregnant women and newborns is severe, but Zika virus is manageable in most cases. Without a vaccine or treatment, check out these preventative steps you can take to protect yourself and your family against mosquitoes. Remember, the best way to avoid transmission of any mosquito-borne illness is to prevent mosquito bites. Check the CDC travel alert page for updated information on where the virus has spread, and seek medical attention if you start to exhibit symptoms.
While we aren’t experts in the virus itself, we are experts in effective mosquito control and support efforts to educate the public on both Zika virus and how to reduce mosquito activity. Check back regularly with the Mosquito Joe Zika Virus Update page for the latest information, news, and tips.