Containing Zika: Federal officials outline action steps for federal, state governments

Current system for controlling mosquitos is 'patchwork,' officials say

The Obama administration on Friday held a summit that focused on steps that local, state, and national officials can take to prevent and curb the spread of the Zika virus in the United States.

According to CDC, approximately 300 local, state and federal officials attended the summit in person, while about 2,500 others watched the meeting online.

CDC advises certain women to delay pregnancy over Zika virus fears

During the summit, HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Nicole Lurie said local, state, and federal officials should work together to coordinate Zika response initiatives in the same way they work together to respond to natural disasters.

Amy Pope, White House deputy homeland security adviser and deputy assistant to President Obama, said officials' top priority should be to ensure pregnant women and their fetuses are protected against Zika. She noted, "If we wait until we see widespread transmission in the United States, if we wait until the public is panicking because they're seeing babies born with birth defects, we will have waited too late." She added, "We do know the impact [Zika can have] on pregnant women can be devastating."

CDC Director Tom Frieden said every state should name a Zika coordinator to handle efforts to address the virus. He said states also should:

  • Build up lab testing abilities;
  • Conduct outreach campaigns for pregnant women; and
  • Review their preparedness plans.

Frieden noted, "We need sustainable mosquito control capacity throughout the country."

Federal officials stressed that combating the virus will require local mosquito control efforts. Those initiatives should include new strategies that will specifically target the Aedes aegypti mosquito species that carries and transmits Zika.

The mosquitoes usually live in and around people's homes, breeding in areas such as:

  • Flower pots;
  • Small pools of water;
  • Tires; and
  • Trash.

That means localities' typical insecticide fogging campaigns could be ineffective, federal officials said. In addition, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes "in some parts of the [United States]" have developed a "widespread resistance to some insecticides," according to Frieden. He said, "Nothing about Zika is going to be easy or quick."

Frieden said local health departments need to focus on killing Zika-carrying mosquitoes both indoors and outdoors, as well as on terminating both larvae and adult insects. While the mosquitoes typically are difficult to kill, Frieden said that does not mean "it's impossible" to control them.

Some express funding concerns

Lyle Petersen, director of CDC's Division of Vector-Borne Disease, said many mosquito abatement programs throughout the United States consist of "patchwork" mosquito-control districts that are funded and coordinated by localities and might not be linked with local health departments. Petersen also noted that such programs generally are "funded to control nuisance mosquitoes rather than to control disease-spreading mosquitoes."

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According to Reuters, many officials who attended the summit expressed concern about funding for Zika-control efforts. Some attendees called on Congress to approve the administration's $1.9 billion request for Zika response funds. According to Pope, a large portion of the requested funds would be directed to local and state officials for Zika response efforts (Smith, MedPage Today, 4/1; Szabo, USA Today, 4/1; McKay, Wall Street Journal, 4/1; Thompson, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 4/1; Steenhuysen, Reuters, 4/1).


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Hospitals must be prepared for myriad disasters that can stress health care systems to the breaking point and disrupt delivery of vital health care services.

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