Researchers at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) emergency unit believe that the Zika virus is one of the most complicated issues that the United States has ever faced! Scientists and researchers who specialize in infectious diseases and birth defects are busy monitoring the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the CDC trying to learn more and gain an understanding of the mysterious Zika virus. For many years the virus appeared to be an uneventful infection, but all of that changed a few months ago when the virus was linked to birth defects including microcephaly along with other brain and autoimmune disorders.
Researchers in the CDC’s vector borne disease department have issued public health warnings declaring that Zika is one of the most complicated and baffling health care issues that the CDC has ever faced. To unlock the key to Zika involves every single facet of the CDC working towards an understanding of the disease.
The United States has activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to a Level 1 response in the past just three times, including Hurricane Katrina, H1N1 and Ebola; Zika brings that number up to four. In fact, a public health emergency of international concern has marked a Level 1 response twice in just under two years. While scientists already knew a great deal about the Ebola virus, it was still able to infect 28,600 people with more than 11,300 deaths in West Africa. Zika, while not as deadly, has forced scientists to learn almost everything about the disease in real time. The Director of the CDC, Tom Frieden made the following statement at a press conference, “We wish we had more answers”. “Zika is a very challenging virus to fight and the response is enormously complex.”
In the Emergency Operations Center, researchers and scientists are closely monitoring cases of the virus all the while constantly assessing the ability of the United States to protect itself. Researchers are finding ways to utilize better diagnostics which includes conducting studies of pregnant women diagnosed with Zika. Progress in being made both here and abroad, as scientists recently declared that the link between microcephaly and Zika is definitive.
There is so much about the virus that is still unknown including why some pregnant women diagnosed with Zika have babies born with microcephaly while other babies are born completely normal. Especially worrisome is the link confirming that Zika can be sexually transmitted which is the first time a mosquito-borne virus has been known to do so. The Director of the CDC’s Nation Center for Emerging & Zoonotic Infectious Diseases recently stated that “This is the first time in over 50 years that we’ve identified a birth defect caused by an infectious disease”.
One of the greatest areas of concern is the ability of each State to adequately control mosquitoes. While some cities have the funding for extensive mosquito control using specialized equipment, other areas do not. Houston for example has a very extensive control program while some of the lower income areas and those that need it the most are often lacking. According to scientists at the CDC, the goal is to set a standard of mosquito control across the U.S to enable researchers to gain a better understand of where the yellow fever mosquito (aedes aegypti) are thriving and in what numbers.
For the time being, the CDC is working tirelessly in their efforts to protect pregnant women and their babies while also striving to answer the remaining questions that continue to keep the scientific community in the United States and around the world in a state of limbo. Texas Heritage Protection will continue to watch this emergency situation closely and continue our effort to inform the public of the latest updates.