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CDC Officials Stress the Importance of Acting On Zika Before it Reaches the US

APR 01, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
On April 1, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a Zika Action Plan Summit in Atlanta, Georgia with the aims of preparing health officials of the possibility of local Zika transmission. The Summit reiterated the importance of acting on Zika now, before it reaches the continental US.

We will not be successful without strong state and local health departments to help prevent transmission #ZikaSummit

— CDC NCEZID (@CDC_NCEZID) April 1, 2016

Speakers at the Summit included director of the CDC, Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, and Denise Jamieson, MD, MPH, medical officer, division of reproductive health at the CDC. (A full list of the presenters can be found in the Summit agenda.)

Commenting on the effects of the Zika virus, Dr. Frieden stated that this is the first time in 50 years that a mosquito-borne pathogen has been linked to birth defects as well as pregnancy complications. It comes as no surprise that the CDC’s priority is protecting pregnant women and women of child-bearing age against contracting the virus, however, speakers at the Summit reiterated the importance of protecting men from the virus as well. Unlike other viruses spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitos (such as Chikungunya and Dengue), the Zika virus can be spread from one infected individual to another through sexual intercourse.

An attendee of the Summit questioned the CDC’s interpretation of who an “infected individual” is, noting that a pregnant woman whose child is born with a birth defect is not officially deemed infected. Dr. Jamieson addressed this comment, stating that “case definitions were developed before we learned the link between infection and birth defects," further noting the need to redefine infection classification. As a result, future Zika efforts focus on combating the virus altogether, rather than focusing on one single aspect of the virus.

Jamieson: Once a person has been infected w/ #Zika, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections. #ZikaSummit

— CDC (@CDCgov) April 1, 2016

The Summit also discussed vector surveillance and control, noting that there are currently 30 US states at high risk of Zika transmission. Since the Ae. aegypti mosquito eggs need water in order to hatch, it is important to eliminate unnecessary water containers that may harbor mosquito eggs, and completely cover containers that are needed.

With a new FDA-approved investigational test now availale for blood screening, Dr. Frieden reassured his audience that there is nothing to worry about. He stated, “Even if we were to have local [Zika virus] transmission, we don’t expect it to be persistent.” This is due to the high usage of window screens and air conditions (which hinder the entrance of mosquitos) in American homes. However, it was further suggested that individuals are reminded to use mosquito repellants when venturing outdoors.
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