The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded $25 million in funding to states, cities, and territories to support efforts to protect Americans from Zika virus infection and associated adverse health outcomes, including microcephaly and the other serious birth defects.
"These CDC funds will enable states and territories to strengthen their Zika preparedness and response plans,” said Stephen C. Redd, M.D. (RADM, USPHS), director of CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. “Although the continental United States has not yet seen local transmission of the Zika virus, mosquito season is here, and states must continue to both work to prevent transmission and prepare for their first local case.”
A total of $25 million in FY 2016 preparedness and response funding has been awarded to 53 state, city, and territorial health department in areas at risk for outbreaks of Zika. The funding is effective July 1 and can be used through June 2017. All jurisdictions will have the funds by next week.
Selection of funding recipients was based on the risk of local transmission as determined by the estimated range of the two Aedes mosquito species known to transmit Zika virus in the U.S.; history of mosquito-borne disease outbreaks; and size of population. Jurisdictions can use the funds to rapidly identify and investigate a possible outbreak of Zika virus in their communities; coordinate a comprehensive response across all levels of government and non-governmental partners (including the healthcare sector); and identify and connect families affected by Zika to community services. Funding can also be used to purchase preparedness resources like repellent, screens, and supplies for Zika Prevention Kits.
In addition to the Zika-specific funding, CDC has awarded $567.5 million in cooperative agreements to 62 public health departments across the country to improve and sustain emergency preparedness of state and local public health systems. Individual departments will receive funds ranging from $320,000 to $38 million. The Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement funding supports all-hazards preparedness and is a critical source of funding and support for the nation’s public health system. The PHEP program provides resources annually that are needed to ensure that local communities can respond effectively to infectious disease outbreaks, natural disasters, or chemical, biological, or radiological nuclear events.
The Obama Administration continues to press Congress for $1.9 billion its public health experts identified as necessary to combat Zika and protect the homeland. While the PHEP grants are an important tool to help communities prepare for and respond to public health emergencies, to expand mosquito control capabilities and develop a Zika vaccine and diagnostics, among other priorities, it requires resources beyond existing appropriations.
Zika virus spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus), although Aedes aegypti are more likely to spread Zika. Zika infection can also be spread by men to their sex partners. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for Zika. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. However, Zika infection in pregnant women is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Zika also has been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, an uncommon sickness of the nervous system in which a person’s immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.