The threat of the Zika virus has caused panic around the globe as new outbreaks continue to be reported. Although the virus was first discovered in 1947 and has been rarely seen in the U.S. in recent years, there has been massive increase in Zika infections across the country in 2016.
Currently, there are more than 6,400 confirmed cases of Zika in the United States and U.S. territories, with New York State being the most affected region, counting around 450 cases. Most of the people infected with the virus contracted it while travelling in another country. The first cases of Zika infections in the United States were reported in Miami, Florida, where sixteen cases have been attributed to mosquito bites. And while towns in South Florida are taking measures to prevent further cases, chances are that the number of Zika infections in the region will increase, if it hasn’t already.
President Obama’s Proposed Funding to Fight Zika
In light of the rapid rise in the number of Zika cases in the U.S., President Obama proposed to Congress to provide $1.9 billion to fight the virus in a variety of ways, including the development of a vaccine, programs for mosquito surveillance and control in states and municipalities,, and improved health services in affected areas, especially for pregnant women who have contracted the virus or would like to get tested.[i]
Unfortunately, Congress denied the proposed funding and left for recess before deciding on a figure they felt was appropriate to combat the Zika threat, leaving both American citizens and visitors to the country vulnerable to the virus – a worrisome situation, particularly for regions where the virus is already present.
Local Governments: Leading the Fight
At the moment, the fight against Zika is being spearheaded by local governments in high-risk areas, however these regions don’t have adequate funding or resources to implement a full eradication program against the virus. For many of these governments, the most they can do with the resources they have is damage control; it is peak mosquito season and it’s just a matter of time before more cases of Zika are discovered in our own backyards.
In Florida, Miami-Dade officials have been spraying insecticides on the ground around entire neighborhoods; most recently, they have begun spraying from airplanes, hoping to kill off any mosquitoes that are in the area. The county is also sending staff door to door to bring awareness about Zika to residents who live in the affected areas.
Clearly, local governments cannot handle a massive problem like the Zika threat on their own. Rather than focusing on damage control, government at all levels needs to work together proactively, to put measures in place to ensure that mosquito-borne threats are not allowed to flourish. It is well-known that mosquitoes carry some of the deadliest diseases on Earth, and accordingly there needs to be preventative action taken to control mosquito populations.
What the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is Doing
The CDC has many resources and tools available to help states and local communities fight Zika. The agency provides training and education to the public, teaches healthcare providers how to identify Zika, and tracks the spread of the virus through the testing of biological samples. The CDC is looking to provide $60 million to help battle Zika, according to USA Today.
The Emergency Operation Center, CDC’s command center for Zika and the division that handles procurement of all supplies and equipment CDC staff needs, plans to award contracts for mosquito control and monitoring, surveillance and investigation, as well as expand their lab capacity and offer further assistance to protect pregnant women against Zika.[ii]
The Zika outbreak is a perfect example of a situation where government needs to work harder to provide funding and resources to help communities protect their collective well-being. Whether government agencies use their own staff or hire outside vendors to battle Zika and other viruses, it is imperative that our public agencies get on top of public health threats and not only prevent people from becoming infected, but to help them make informed decisions when traveling abroad - or even just stepping outside of their own homes.
Danielle Calamaras | BidNet.com
[i] N.p. Our Response to the Zika Virus. Whitehous.gov. n.d. web. 4 Aug. 2016
[ii] N.p. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. What is the CDC Doing. Cdc.gov. 3 Aug. 2016. Web. 4 Aug. 2016