By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO (Reuters) – A yr in the past, the mosquito-borne Zika virus was solely starting to reveal itself as a menace to pregnant women and their unborn infants.
Since then, U.S. officers have issued 60 journey alerts together with steerage for athletes and vacationers touring to the Olympics in Rio. They have additionally deployed greater than 1,000 specialists to Puerto Rico and elsewhere, examined greater than 147,000 lab specimens, initiated 25 main research and issued greater than 230 scientific publications.
And the work isn’t completed, stated Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We have a lot more to do to control both Zika and diseases spread by this mosquito,” Frieden informed Reuters in an interview.
Frieden, appointed by President Barack Obama to run the CDC in 2009, will hand in his resignation on Jan. 20, the day of President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The former New York City health commissioner won’t say what he plans subsequent. He did share his want record for the incoming president and Congress which accommodates a number of gadgets, not least of which is a public health emergency fund.
“We’ve dealt with Ebola, H1N1 influenza, MERS, fungal meningitis. We’re dealing now with influenza and drug-resistant bacteria,” he stated.
And then there was Zika, the first-ever mosquito-borne virus proven to be able to inflicting delivery defects. The virus has unfold to greater than 60 nations and territories because the present outbreak was recognized final yr in Brazil.
“We don’t know when the next global health threat will come. We don’t know where it will come from. We don’t know what pathogen it will be, but we are 100 percent certain that there will be a next one,” he stated.
Frieden stated U.S. health officers should proceed to warn pregnant women concerning the dangers of Zika and the necessity to shield themselves, avoiding journey to locations the place the virus is lively.
Scientists additionally want to proceed ongoing research on the long-term results of Zika publicity. Besides microcephaly, a extreme delivery defect marked by abnormally small head measurement, fetal publicity to Zika has been linked to imaginative and prescient and listening to issues, extreme irritability, hassle swallowing, epilepsy and hypertonia, or excessively stiff muscle tone.
“It’s a startlingly complex infection,” he stated.
Better diagnostics are additionally wanted, he stated, together with simpler pesticides and other mosquito management strategies.
It took 9 months of political wrangling for U.S. lawmakers to approve $1.1 billion in emergency funds to fight Zika. Health specialists stated the delay harm the U.S. effort to fight the virus.
This drawback that could possibly be addressed via a proposed Rapid Reserve Fund that could possibly be tapped in case of an infectious illness emergency, Frieden stated.
A $300 million reserve fund was included within the House model of the fiscal 2017 finances, however in December, Congress handed a stop-gap funding invoice that runs by way of March.
“I really would hope that come April, if a budget is passed, it will include the Rapid Reserve Fund plan that was outlined in the House bill, which ideally would also have some spending authorities that would enable the government to act quickly in an emergency,” Frieden stated.
Although Trump has not stated a lot on the topic, he did single out public health staff as being exempt from a hiring freeze he has deliberate for the primary 100 days of his administration.
“It is certainly encouraging,” Frieden stated, including that it displays a recognition that public health, like public security, “is about keeping Americans safe.”
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by David Gregorio)