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Andrew D'Arcy
Andrew D'Arcy
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On Tuesday, the CDC awarded more than $16 million to 40 states and territories to create “information-gathering systems” to rapidly detect health issues associated with the Zika virus.  In a news release, the CDC stated that the funding is also meant to help states and territories ensure that infants and their families are referred to appropriate health and social services while also enabling communities to monitor the health and developmental outcomes of children affected by Zika.

Zika is transmitted to people through the bite of infected female mosquitoes, primarily the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the same type that spreads dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.  The Pan American Health Organization said Aedes mosquitoes are found in all countries in the Americas except Canada and continental Chile, and the virus will likely reach all countries and territories of the region where Aedes mosquitoes are found.

The CDC has said repeatedly that it expects to see cases of local transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus this summer in warm, humid southern states such as Florida, Louisiana and Texas.  Health officials are urging pregnant women to avoid a Miami neighborhood where 14 people appear to have contracted the Zika virus.  The Miami warning to pregnant women or those thinking of becoming pregnant is the first health warning in decades against travel to a destination within the continental United States.

CDC director Tom Frieden said in a news release “This CDC funding provides real-time data about the Zika epidemic as it unfolds in the United States and territories and will help those most devastated by the virus.”  The agency said that this money is a “stopgap diverted from other public health resources until Zika funds are provided by Congress.”  President Barack Obama has asked Congress to allocate $1.9 billion to combat the Zika threat, but federal lawmakers have yet to act on the request.

U.S. officials said they don’t expect to see a Zika epidemic in the United States similar to those in Latin America.  The reason:  better insect control as well as window screens and air conditioning that should help curtail any outbreaks.  The CDC advises pregnant women not to travel to an area where active Zika transmission is on going and to use insect repellent and wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts if they are in those areas.