Zika is a mosquito carried and transmitted illness that is particularly an issue for pregnant women, who can give birth to babies with birth defects when infected. The virus has made the news for its spread in other countries, and now the U.S. is doing everything possible to prevent it from becoming an issue here.
The problem is that simple spraying for mosquitos isn’t likely to do enough damage. This worked when we were dealing with the West Nile virus, but the mosquitos that carry zika don’t fly very far from where they hatch so proper precautions might include spraying closer to people’s homes. The Aedes aegypti mosquito sticks to a flight range of only 150 yards.
Researchers are finding that the potential birth defects aren’t limited to visible defects in babyhood, the virus can also have lasting effects on the children’s developmental process and that learning defects might show up when they are school aged.
Ed McCabe, who is the chief medical officer for the March of Dimes, says that there is a “very narrow window that will close rapidly” where we have the chance to prevent this from spreading. He added that generally there is a lot we can do to prevent birth defects, “but this is not the situation with this virus. We know what we have to do to protect pregnant women from being bitten by mosquitoes. ”
As of right now the U.S. is severely lacking in the resources that would be needed to truly prevent zika from becoming an issue. Since it is already springtime weather in a lot of the country mosquito season is just around the corner.
There are currently 312 confirmed cases of Zika in the continental United States, 27 of them being pregnant women. All of these cases were contracted when people were traveling abroad, besides six that were contracted through sexual transmission. The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico has already had 325 confirmed cases, which included over three dozen pregnant women.
The CDC does have a variety of vector-control programs in the U.S., but many of them are very small standalone operations that do not make sharing detailed information very convenient for getting a real handle on things. Also where they are located might be an issue. In Texas they are all along the coast. Other states like Nebraska and Missouri do not have any of these programs in place at all.
The Obama administration is currently trying to get $1.9 billion in funding for the situation but congress has turned them down and some have suggested they use leftover money from the ebola funds.