White House Requests $1.8 billion & CDC Issues Guidance to Fight Zika Virus
The Zika virus is getting increased attention from U.S. media and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now that the first case of the infection has been detected in a "non-traveler" in the continental U.S. The CDC has updated guidelines and resources for diagnosing and preventing transmission of the Zika virus and the […]
The Zika virus is getting increased attention from U.S. media and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now that the first case of the infection has been detected in a "non-traveler" in the continental U.S. The CDC has updated guidelines and resources for diagnosing and preventing transmission of the Zika virus and the White House has asked Congress for over $1.8 billion to fund efforts to fight the virus.
The CDC's Jan. 29 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) indicated that by Jan. 20, 2016, "locally-transmitted cases had been reported to the Pan American Health Organization from Puerto Rico and 19 other countries or territories in the Americas" and infections had been reported in U.S. for returning travelers. Feb. 5, the CDC reported that "in collaboration with the Dallas County Health and Human Services" it has confirmed the first case of the infection in the continental U.S. involving an individual who hadn't traveled to a country experiencing an outbreak of the virus. In that case, the infection was sexually transmitted. The CDC indicates that other documented means of transmission for the Zika virus have included intrauterine transmission, intrapartum transmission from mother to newborn, blood transfusion, and laboratory exposure.
The CDC's Feb. 5 interim guidelines address when testing is recommended for pregnant women, indicating Zika testing can be offered to pregnant women 2-12 weeks after returning from outbreak locations, regardless of whether they have symptoms. Testing for the Zika virus is currently being performed at the CDC and four state health department laboratories and the CDC says it is working to expand laboratory diagnostic testing to additional states. Testing can be complicated by the fact that cross-reacting antibodies for other viruses such as dengue and yellow fever viruses may lead to false positive results for Zika.
The CDC also addressed lab safety, advising in a Jan. 13 memo that the virus is classified as a biological safety level (BSL) 2 pathogen and "should be handled in accordance with Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) guidelines and a risk assessment performed for each laboratory for the specific procedures utilized."
Finally, the White House is asking Congress to fund efforts at diagnostic development, "enabling the testing and procurement of vaccines and diagnostics," education, "improving epidemiology and expanding laboratory and diagnostic testing capacity," and mosquito control, among other initiatives. The funding requests relevant to laboratories and diagnostics include:
- $828 million to the CDC to help "improve laboratory capacity and infrastructure to test for Zika virus and other infectious diseases" as well as improve diagnostics and support "advanced methods to refine tests;"
- $200 million to the Department of Health and Human Services to fund "research, rapid advanced development and commercialization of new vaccines and diagnostic tests for Zika virus;"
- $335 million to the U.S. Agency for International Development to "create new incentives for the development of vaccines and diagnostics" and "[s]timulate private sector research and development of vaccines, diagnostics" and other innovations.
Takeaway: As spring approaches the CDC ramps up its efforts to call attention to the Zika virus and the White House asks Congress to fund the search for diagnostics and vaccines.
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