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Zika More Threatening Than Initially Believed

APR 12, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR

Efforts to Combat Zika

Understanding the dangers of the Zika virus has led the Obama administration to lobby Congress for funds to combat the virus. The White House announced that there are plans on repurposing $510 million of existing Ebola funds to help fight Zika. The money will go towards vector-control efforts, development of diagnostics and vaccines, clinical support of known Zika patients (specifically pregnant women and infants), mapping and tracking the spread of Zika, and prevention methods in the continental United States as well as US territories and the Americas.

More recently, the CDC revealed that it will provide $3.9 million in emergency Zika funds to Puerto Rico, where there is the highest prevalence of local Zika transmission within United States territories, with 325 lab-confirmed cases.

The FDA had previously barred Puerto Rico from collecting blood donations from the island, for fear of viral transmission during blood transfusion, previously seen in Brazil, and asymptomatic French Polynesian blood donors who were found to have traces of Zika virus in their bloodstreams. In response, the usage of blood donations collected from areas of the continental US without active transmission of the Zika virus was recommended. However, with the approval of an investigational blood screen test, Puerto Rico was able to commence local blood donation collection on April 2, 2016.

According to a 2016 CDC survey of blood collection centers, there are no known cases of blood transfusion-transmitted Zika in the United States or Puerto Rico, to date.
In response to the current Zika outbreak, the CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center at Level 1, the highest emergency level. Dr. Schuchat stated that the CDC predicts there to be hundreds of thousands of undiagnosed Zika cases in Puerto Rico. She further stated that the CDC is working with local officials to control the mosquito population and is distributing Zika kits to pregnant women to help prevent them from being infected with the virus.
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