The CDC continues to work with state public health officials and has an emergency response team on the ground in South Florida, agencies have moved to expedite the development of a vaccine, and the administration is working with the private sector to develop more options to test and prevent infection.
In his Weekly Address, President Obama discussed the Administration's ongoing efforts and called on Congress to act on his request made in February. He said:
Since late last year, when the most recent outbreak of Zika started popping up in other countries, federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been preparing for it to arrive in the U.S. In February – more than six months ago – I asked Congress for the emergency resources that public health experts say we need to combat Zika. That includes things like mosquito control, tracking the spread of the virus, accelerating new diagnostic tests and vaccines, and monitoring women and babies with the virus.
Republicans in Congress did not share Ashley’s “extreme concern,” nor that of other Americans expecting children. They said no. Instead, we were forced to use resources we need to keep fighting Ebola, cancer, and other diseases. We took that step because we have a responsibility to protect the American people. But that’s not a sustainable solution. And Congress has been on a seven-week recess without doing anything to protect Americans from the Zika virus.
So my Administration has done what we can on our own. Our primary focus has been protecting pregnant women and families planning to have children...But every day that Republican leaders in Congress wait to do their job, every day our experts have to wait to get the resources they need – that has real-life consequences. Weaker mosquito-control efforts. Longer wait times to get accurate diagnostic results. Delayed vaccines. It puts more Americans at risk.
You can find President Obama’s full address: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/08/27/weekly-address-taking-action-against-zika-virus
HERE’S WHAT WE ARE DOING TO COMBAT ZIKA VIRUS:
The President has directed his team to do everything possible to stay ahead of the threat of Zika, even with the limited resources available.
What We Know About Zika Virus
- Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aëdes species mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections. Continually updated information from the CDC can be found here: >http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html<.
- Here’s how many cases of Zika virus the CDC is tracking in the United States and U.S. territories:
- As of August 24, there were 2,517 laboratory-confirmed travel-associated cases of Zika reported in the continental United States and Hawaii and 9,011 in the U.S. territories.
- As of August 18, 584 pregnant women in the U.S. states and 812 pregnant women in the U.S. territories – the vast majority of whom are in Puerto Rico – have evidence of Zika virus infection.
Community Engagement and Education
Today Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Amy Pope answered questions on Zika with The Bump, a publication for expecting mothers, with the goal of providing as much information as possible on Zika and how we expect it to spread, in order to help people take appropriate safety measures. She said:
o “We have seen some local non-travel related transmission of Zika in U.S. states, and thousands of Zika cases in the US in travelers returning from areas with active Zika transmission. There also are more than 1,000 cases of locally-transmitted Zika in the US territories, mostly in Puerto Rico. Based on our experience with dengue and chikungunya (viruses transmitted by the same kinds of mosquito as Zika), we expected to see these cases of local transmission in continental US this summer, and are working very closely with state and local public health authorities to limit any further transmission. The CDC has issued advice for those traveling to or living in those limited Zika-affected areas and the FDA has also made screening tests available to protect the blood supply in areas that have local transmission of Zika, like Puerto Rico.” (Source: >http://www.thebump.com/news/white-house-zika-safety-tips-precautions<)
· Yesterday Twitter hosted public health experts from HHS, CDC, NIH, the Office of the Surgeon General, and the White House took to answer your questions. You can find their answers using #AtoZika. (Source: >https://twitter.com/gov/status/770579159139676160<)
· Yesterday Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wrote in the Miami Herald about our efforts, specifically in Florida, to respond to the spread of Zika. He said:
o "For a pregnant woman and her developing baby, Zika can be devastating. If a mother-to-be is infected with Zika — either from a mosquito or through unprotected sex with an infected partner — the virus can cause severe damage to the developing fetal brain resulting in microcephaly and other serious, irreversible birth defects. While the birth defects caused by infection in the first trimester may be most severe, Zika may be able to harm the fetus at any time during pregnancy. Researchers are discovering more about Zika virus every day — and there is much more still to be learned. But this will take time and it will take additional funding, which Congress has yet to provide. In the meantime, we can’t wait. It is critical to act now to protect expectant moms." (Source: >http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article98689967.html<)
· CDC has and will continue to provide support to Florida to address the Zika outbreak. CDC experts in epidemiology, surveillance, and vector control have been on the ground for weeks supporting the state of Florida’s response. CDC has provided $35 million in federal funds for Zika and emergency response, including public health and emergency preparedness funds for both FY 2015 and 2016 that can be used to purchase items for Zika prevention kits. CDC also has provided 10,000 bottles of DEET for the kits. CDC is also providing support for Zika lab testing. To date, CDC has shipped enough material for about 2,000 Zika lab tests, the number of tests Florida said would allow them to be at full capacity for Zika testing. After learning this week that Florida needed more materials, CDC is sending another shipment expected to arrive on Thursday, August 25. (Source: >http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0824-zika-support-florida.html<)
o The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided advice for people living in or traveling to the neighborhood in Miami, Florida where non-travel related Zika cases have occurred. Learn more here: >http://www.cdc.gov/zika/intheus/florida-update.html<
o The Florida Department of Health is providing daily updates here: >http://www.floridahealth.gov/<
Prevention and Testing
- On June 14, CDC released their Draft Interim Zika Response Plan, which describes how CDC will support states to respond to locally transmitted cases of Zika in the continental United States and Hawaii. In preparing this plan, CDC worked closely with state and local health officials, including hosting a national teleconference with state health officials, state epidemiologists, state maternal and child health leads, and key local health department officials to introduce the plan. (Source: >http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pdfs/zika-draft-interim-conus-plan.pdf<)
· As a further safety measure against the emerging Zika virus outbreak, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a revised guidance recommending universal testing of donated Whole Blood and blood components for Zika virus in the U.S. and its territories. “There is still much uncertainty regarding the nature and extent of Zika virus transmission,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “At this time, the recommendation for testing the entire blood supply will help ensure that safe blood is available for all individuals who might need transfusion.” (Source: >http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm518218.htm<)
· Researchers at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) recently identified compounds that potentially can be used to inhibit Zika virus replication and reduce its ability to kill brain cells. These compounds now can be studied by the broader research community to help combat the Zika public health crisis. NCATS is part of the National Institutes of Health. (Source: >https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-collaboration-helps-advance-potential-zika-treatments<)
· On August 26, 2016, the FDA issued the 10th emergency use authorization for a Zika diagnostic test. Specifically, the FDA authorized emergency use of Roche Molecular Systems, Inc.'s LightMix® Zika rRT-PCR Test for the qualitative detection of RNA from Zika virus in human serum and EDTA plasma from individuals meeting CDC criteria for Zika detection. (Source: >http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/EmergencySituations/ucm161496.htm<#zika)
CONGRESS NEEDS TO ACT TO PROTECT AMERICANS FROM THE SPREAD OF ZIKA VIRUS:
As President Obama said, we all have to remain vigilant when it comes to combating the spread of diseases like Zika. That's why the President has called on Congress to provide $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat this disease, including to:
- speed the development of a vaccine;
- allow people – especially pregnant women – to more easily get tested and get a prompt result; and
- ensure that states and communities – particularly those in the South that have experienced local outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya in the past – have the resources they need to fight the mosquito that carries this virus.
Congress needs to act now to ensure that we have the resources we need to take every step necessary to protect the American people from the Zika virus.
From the New York Times: "U.S. Funding for Fighting Zika Virus Is Nearly Spent, C.D.C. Says." "The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Tuesday that federal funds to fight the Zika virus were nearly exhausted, and that if Congress did not replenish them soon, there would be no money to fight a new outbreak. As of Friday, the C.D.C. had spent $194 million of the $222 million it was allocated to fight the virus, said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the agency. Congress left for its summer recess without approving additional funding. Now that the virus is actively circulating in Florida, Dr. Frieden is pressing his case for funding with new urgency." (Source: >http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/31/health/us-funding-for-fighting-zika-virus-is-nearly-spent-cdc-says.html<)
From the Hill: "CDC director on Zika: 'Basically, we're out of money.'" "The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday made his strongest case yet for Congress to include funding for the Zika virus in its stopgap spending bill next month. 'Basically, we’re out of money,' Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, told reporters at a briefing in downtown D.C. 'Congress needs to do something.' Frieden is delivering his most urgent appeal to lawmakers since February to approve some or all of the Obama administration’s $1.9 billion request, about a week before the end of the summer recess. The agency, which leads the nation’s public health response to Zika, has spent or budgeted almost of the $222 million it has borrowed from across the federal health department. About half went to state and local health departments. The rest went to develop new diagnostic tests, bolster public outreach and bulk up staffing to deal with the outbreaks in Puerto Rico and southern Florida." (Source: >http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/293830-cdc-director-on-zika-basically-were-out-of-money<)
HERE’S HOW DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS ARE DOING THEIR PART TO COMBAT ZIKA VIRUS:
· From What to Expect: "Zika Virus and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know Now." "Zika virus can cause severe birth defects in babies whose mothers are infected during pregnancy, and it is now carried by mosquitos in the continental United States. While this news means pregnant and trying-to-conceive women should more seriously consider Zika virus prevention in their daily lives, it's no cause for panic. Here's what you need to know about Zika virus and how to keep your risk of infection as low as possible."
o What to Expect launched a family resource page to help inform people - especially expecting mothers - how to best protect themselves and their families from Zika. (Source: >http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/zika?IID=hp_todaysbest<)
· From the Archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico: Yesterday the Catholic Archbishop of San Juan, Roberto Octavio Gonzalez Nieves, issued guidance to all Catholic congregations and schools in his diocese urging people to stay informed and take mosquito mitigation steps to protect themselves from Zika.