Zika Corner - July 2016

July 25, 2016


On Friday, July 1, President Obama received an update on Zika from his public health team including Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director of NIH/NIAID Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Tom Frieden, and Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Amy Pope. After the meeting, the President laid out the actions the Administration is taking to address the spread of Zika and reiterated the need for Congress to act. He said:

To summarize, number one, we have put forward guidelines in terms of travel to areas that have Zika, and we are recommending that pregnant women or women of child-bearing years who are thinking about being pregnant, or individuals who are traveling to Zika-infected areas, male partners who want to make sure that they're not infecting their spouses or their partners, that they have to take a look and see whether they're traveling in the right places. That's point number one. And you can go to the CDC website in order to find out how you can protect yourself. Stay informed and protect yourself during this summer.

Point number two is we have a crisis right now in Puerto Rico surrounding Zika, and we have to obtain the resources to make sure that we are engaging in mosquito abatement and providing the kind of basic health services to reduce the effects of Zika in Puerto Rico. And at a time when Puerto Rico is already going through a tough time and its public health infrastructure is being strained because of budget constraints and debt problems, it's especially important that we're responsive to the millions of American citizens who live there.

...point number three -- we have to get the money from Congress over the next two weeks to make sure that we can begin to develop the effective vaccines, the mosquito abatement tools, the state emergency response dollars so that all of us are safe and we're not seeing families dealing with tragedies that can last a lifetime.

This is just common sense. And this is not the time to play politics.

You can find President Obama's full remarks here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/07/01/remarks-president-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<.

Community Engagement and Education
• Last week, Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Amy Pope answered questions for The Bump. "As of June 22, there haven't been any cases of locally-transmitted Zika in the continental US, but there have been hundreds 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 do expect to start seeing cases of local transmission in continental US this summer. 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<)

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<)

Supporting Research
• On July 6, Sanofi announced a cooperative research and development agreement with the U.S. Army's Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) to co-develop a Zika vaccine candidate. WRAIR will transfer a vaccine technology to Sanofi Pasteur for clinical and manufacturing development of a Zika vaccine candidate. This experimental vaccine showed promise in early pre-clinical studies. (Source: >http://www.wsj.com/articles/sanofi-teams-up-with-u-s-army-on-zika-vaccine-1467781202<)

• On July 5, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that researchers will monitor potential Zika virus exposure among a subset of athletes, coaches and other U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) staff attending the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Brazil. The study aims to improve understanding of how the virus persists in the body and to identify potential factors that influence the course of infection. To prepare, USOC and the University of Utah conducted a pilot study in March and April 2016. Notably, one-third of the pilot group indicated that they or their partner planned to become pregnant within 12 months of the Olympic Games. For the current study, the research team estimates that up to 30 pregnancies may occur among the participants. Zika virus infection typically does not cause symptoms in adults, so routine sampling will detect asymptomatic infections and help shed light on symptomatic versus asymptomatic infections. More than 1,000 USOC staff members are expected to travel to Brazil, and the study aims to enroll at least 50 percent of the group. In addition, spouses or partners who are traveling to Brazil may be eligible to participate. (Source: >https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-funds-zika-virus-study-involving-us-olympic-team<)

• On June 27, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it will accelerate development of a Zika vaccine using its Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM) in Baltimore, Maryland. With funding and direction from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the CIADM led by Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., will conduct a variety of studies to move quickly through early stages of vaccine development and submit an investigational new drug request to FDA to begin clinical studies. (Source: >http://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2016/06/27/hhs-calls-center-innovation-accelerate-zika-vaccine-development.html<)


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.

Over the past few days, the President has spoken with Congressional leadership, including Leader McConnell and Senate Democratic leadership, and he - again - urged them to take a bipartisan approach to helping protect Americans from Zika. Unfortunately, in the nearly 5 months since the President submitted a Zika funding request to Congress, all Republicans have done is pass partisan Zika legislation in the dead of night that:
• fails to provide the resources our public health experts have said is necessary to do everything possible to fight the Zika virus;
• steals funding from other health priorities;
• puts unnecessary restrictions on access to needed birth control services for women in the United States and Puerto Rico; and
• jeopardizes clean water protections.

Here's what publications around the country are saying:

From the New York Times Editorial Board: "Congress's Failure to Fund Zika Response." "In late February, the White House asked Congress for $1.9 billion in emergency money to stem the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which at the time had been tentatively linked to birth defects in South America. Since then, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has concluded that the virus does cause birth defects, including microcephaly. More than 2,600 people in American states and territories have been diagnosed with Zika. As of June 16, federal health officials were tracking 481 cases of pregnant women who appeared to be infected. Now, with mosquito season upon us, and despite evidence that a potentially calamitous health crisis could be around the corner, Congress has yet to provide money for a serious response. Indeed, some Republicans initially dismissed the threat and irresponsibly suggested that the government simply repurpose funds already earmarked to combat Ebola... Given the urgency of the matter, it is not asking too much of House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to agree on a generous bill without unjustifiable restrictions." (Source: >http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/30/opinion/congresss-failure-to-fund-zika-response.html<)

From Bloomberg Editorial Board: "Congress Dithers While Zika Spreads." "Congress is giving the Aedes aegypti mosquito every chance to gain an advantage in the fight against the Zika virus. No one knows exactly when the first such mosquito will transmit the virus inside the U.S., but it might happen before lawmakers manage to pass a bill to pay for its prevention and control...Congressional Republicans offered $1.1 billion, with strings attached. One of them was that none of the money go to women's health clinics such as those run by Planned Parenthood. That's nonsensical, since Zika is a disease that can be sexually transmitted and whose worst effects can be prevented with birth control. Republicans also proposed other dubious conditions, such as loosening Clean Water Act restrictions on some pesticides and cutting the budget for Obamacare." (Source: >http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-06-30/congress-dithers-while-zika-spreads<)

From Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board: "Congress fiddles as Zika spreads." "More than 200 people in Florida have been diagnosed with the Zika virus, and state health officials confirm the first baby has been born in the state with Zika-related microcephaly. Yet as the virus spreads, Congress is still playing partisan games and will leave for the Fourth of July break without agreeing on emergency funding to fight the mosquito-borne disease. No wonder voters are so disgusted with Washington. It's no surprise Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked approval of a $1.1 billion Zika package. The package negotiated by House and Senate Republicans was loaded with partisan darts aimed at Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Care Act and environmental regulations. Even Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voted against it as he complained of political games and demanded Congress 'treat this as a real emergency.' Exactly. Yet Senate Republican leaders say they might not get back to Zika funding when they return to Washington after the Fourth of July to work just two weeks before a seven-week recess." (Source: >http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-congress-fiddles-as-zika-spreads/2283455<)

From EMissourian Editorial Board: "Zika becomes a Congress-borne disease." "Just when you thought congressional misfeasance couldn't get any worse, along comes political gamesmanship to sink funding to fight a public health menace. Somewhere today, probably in Florida, are pregnant women who've been bitten by mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus. In coming months, they'll give birth to babies with severe birth defects. And they'll have Congress to thank. Women in Missouri and Illinois shouldn't relax. By the time Congress returns from its Fourth of July recess and takes another shot at a bill President Barack Obama asked them to pass in February, the risk in the lower Midwest will be 'moderate to high,' scientists say. On Tuesday, when the Senate took up a badly contaminated House-passed bill that contained $1.1 billion in funding to fight the epidemic, the focus was on affixing blame, not protecting public health. As for senators' sworn duty to protect the American public, forget about it. If there's a Zika epidemic in the United States this year, it won't just be the mosquitoes' fault. When last we wrote about Congress and Zika 25 days ago, we quoted Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 'Three months in an epidemic is an eternity.' Had the CDC gotten its money in February, the nation would have been better prepared. Work on vaccines would have been funded fully. Public health agencies in the southern states, where mosquito season starts in May, would have had the tools they needed. But the request had Obama's name on it, and there is no issue too urgent - not even babies with birth defects - that it can divert GOP lawmakers from their primary target." (Source: >http://www.emissourian.com/news/state/editorial-zika-becomes-a-congress-borne-disease/article_33e6372e-08e0-52d2-ac8f-b5970128cb3e.html<)

From the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board: "Gridlock in Congress gets dangerous as anti-Zika funding delayed." "Given how dysfunctional Congress is, we expect partisan battles to sometimes block important legislation. Still, the current standoff over $1.1 billion to fight the Zika virus is absurd - and dangerous. Lawmakers ought to be ashamed - if they have any shame left - that they're holding hostage essential funding for what is a real public health emergency. Zika, mainly spread by tropical mosquitoes, can cause horrific birth defects. There are already more than 800 cases in the mainland U.S., including 300 pregnant women. And prime mosquito season is fast approaching. Yet on Tuesday, the Senate deadlocked on a bill that includes $476 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ramp up mosquito control and $230 million for the National Institutes of Health to develop a vaccine." (Source: >http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/editorials/article86705547.html<)

From Politico: "Poll: Most Americans want to spend more to fight Zika" "72 PERCENT OF AMERICANS WANT U.S. TO SPEND MORE TO FIGHT ZIKA. That's according to a tracking poll released this morning, which found that seven in 10 Americans want the nation to invest money in research and prevention. There was a slight partisan difference, but still overwhelming support across both parties nonetheless; about four-fifths of Democrats favored spending more compared to two-thirds of Republicans." (Source: >http://www.politico.com/tipsheets/politico-pulse/2016/06/kaiser-most-americans-want-to-spend-more-to-fight-zika-215110<)


On July 5, Senator Tim Kaine met with doctors from VCU and the Red Cross, along with state health officials, to gather information and raise awareness about the health threat posed by the Zika virus. (Source: >http://wvtf.org/post/senator-tim-kaine-leads-virginia-awareness-campaign-zika-virus<#stream/0)

On June 30, Home Depot - in partnership with the CDC Foundation - sponsored a "Zika Action Day" focused in Puerto Rico. The event featured a health fair with public health experts discussing Zika, product demonstrations to show people how to protect themselves by taking simple actions in their homes, yards and neighborhoods, and kids workshops. Pregnant women were offered a free Zika Prevention Kit. (Source: >http://www.cdcfoundation.org/blog-entry/puerto-rico-zika-action-day<)

From June 27 through July 3, communities across the country - including Boston (MA), Gainesville (FL), Middlesex County (NJ), Montgomery County (MD), New Hanover County (NC), Seminole County (FL), Virginia Beach (VA), and York County (VA) - participated a day of action to spread awareness about Zika prevention. Additional days of action are planned from this week in Honolulu (HI), Houston (TX), Nashville (TN), Sioux Falls (SD), Henrico County (VA), Moody County (SD), Orange County (NY), Pinellas County (FL), Sullivan County (VA), Clay County (FL), and St. Mary's Parish (LA).