As New Zika Cases Show Up in the U.S., Research Funding is Still Stalled

A flurry of new Zika cases is shaking Southern Florida, with 12 men and two women having been recently diagnosed with the infection. Wynwood, a Miami neighborhood known for its abundance of bars, restaurants, warehouses, condos and apartment buildings, is ground zero for the most recent US-based Zika surge. For the first time, health officials are discouraging pregnant women from traveling to a US location, citing the recent proliferation of the virus as cause for concern.

A Brief History of Zika

Zika, a virus transmitted by the mosquito species Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, has spread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years. Though Zika has been around for a long time, it was only last May that its first cases were detected in Brazil – it had previously resided mostly in Asia, where populations had built immunity to the virus.

Brazil, a country of 2 million people, saw rates of fetal microcephaly (a birth deformity in which a child is born with a dramatically smaller head than is normal for his or her age and sex) increase drastically with the introduction of the Zika virus, from 9 in about 129,000 annual births to 646 in November 2015, according to The New York Times.

This prompted research into Zika, a relatively new disease for South America, leading researchers to believe that the mosquito-born virus is directly related to increased microcephaly rates.

Zika in a Nutshell

Zika is transmitted from person to person by way of mosquito bites, as well as through sex. Symptoms seem mild and can include fever, rash, muscle pain and headaches. While Zika is thought to stay in the system for about two weeks, the CDC recommends that women who have been infected with Zika wait at least eight weeks before becoming pregnant, due to the potential for harm to the developing fetus.

Your best protection methods against Zika are to wear clothing that covers the majority of your skin, use insect repellent religiously, and to avoid areas where Zika outbreaks appear to have occurred.

Zika in the US

While Zika hasn’t been a huge problem in the US thus far, the recent surge of cases in Miami is concerning. Experts believe that the virus crossed over into the US when travelers from the Caribbean or Latin America visited the country, and were bitten by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, thereby introducing the virus into the US mosquito population.

Making the Case for Zika Research Funding

US officials (and those abroad) need more knowledge about the Zika virus. In fact, the exact mechanism for microcephaly’s connection with Zika is still unknown, and while the two are almost certainly linked, scientists need a better understanding of the impact of Zika on fetal development.

Many countries have also called upon scientists to develop a vaccine to protect women of childbearing age against Zika. Without a vaccine, women in countries in which Zika is prevalent may not be able to safely and confidently conceive, causing long-term problems for the populations of such countries.

The U.S. hasn’t approved a budget for Zika research. In February, President Obama requested $1.9 million from Congress, and since then, Republicans and Democrats have gone back and forth trying to pass an emergency funding deal. Republicans have tried to package a deal with stipulations that restrict Planned Parenthood and loosen restrictions on spraying pesticides near water sources. Democrats rejected the deal, and now Congress is on recess until September. There’s still no plan.

With the spread of the virus seemingly increasing in the US, it’s high time for Zika funding to match the level of importance set by the virus’ risk to women and unborn children.

72 comments

Paulo R
Paulo R12 days ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R12 days ago

ty

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Caitlin L
Past Member 2 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Louise A
Lara A2 months ago

TYFS

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Thank you for cafing and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Thank you for cafing and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Thank you for cafing and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 months ago

Frightening Thank you for cafing and sharing

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Peggy B
Peggy B2 months ago

Noted

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Diane E
Diane E2 months ago

Funding is necessary. It is needed immediately. Public health is vital.

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