AAFP, CDC Field New Tools to Augment Response to Zika Threat

HHS Secretary Warns of Dwindling Funds to Combat the Virus

August 10, 2016 04:19 pm News Staff

As rapidly as news about the Zika virus is evolving, it can be tough to keep up. Fortunately, family physicians can visit the AAFP's Zika Virus Outbreak resource page to stay abreast of the most recent Zika developments, access the latest clinical guidance and find reader-friendly information to share with patients.

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And now FPs have a new tool to help them stay up-to-date on the extent of the outbreak. Thanks to the AAFP's acquisition of HealthLandscape back in 2014, visitors to the Zika Web page can explore a map of the continental United States(www.healthlandscape.org) that displays, on a state-by-state basis, the number of Zika cases reported to date -- segmented by whether travel-associated or locally acquired -- as well as links to other state-based Zika resources and information. To be updated weekly, the map provides a snapshot of the spread of the virus across the country.

As the first U.S. locale to confirm local mosquito-borne transmission of the virus -- and in light of ongoing active transmission -- southern Florida remains in the spotlight of national disease activity. So much so, in fact, that CDC officials, in an unprecedented move, issued a travel advisory(www.cdc.gov) earlier this month warning pregnant women to not visit the one-mile-square area of Miami in which the cases are thought to have originated. This action came just days after Gov. Rick Scott requested deployment of a CDC Emergency Response Team(www.flgov.com) to assist the Florida Department of Health in case investigation, sample collection and mosquito control efforts.

Story Highlights
  • The AAFP is offering a new tool to help family physicians stay up-to-date on the extent of the Zika virus outbreak: a U.S. map that displays, on a state-by-state basis, the number of Zika cases reported to date and other related data.
  • Meanwhile, the CDC continues to update its guidance for clinicians on the Zika virus and its transmission, including specific testing protocols for those who may have been exposed to the virus.
  • HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell told congressional appropriators last week that the administration's remaining Zika funding would be exhausted by Sept. 30 or sooner and called for lawmakers to pass legislation to fund the nation's efforts to combat the outbreak.

In addition, the FDA on July 27(www.fda.gov) called for all blood collection establishments in Florida's Miami-Dade and Broward counties to "cease collecting blood immediately until the blood establishments implement testing of each individual unit of blood collected in the county with an available investigational donor screening test for Zika virus RNA or until the blood establishments implement the use of an approved or investigational pathogen inactivation technology." (The announcement was updated on Aug. 4 to remove Broward County.) The agency also recommended that blood collection sites outside that area defer donors who have traveled to Miami-Dade County in the previous month.

Meanwhile, the CDC has continued to update its guidance for clinicians(emergency.cdc.gov) on the Zika virus and its transmission, including issuing specific testing protocols(www.cdc.gov) for those who may have been exposed to the virus.

And now, according to an Aug. 9 update from the Florida Department of Health,(www.floridahealth.gov) four new cases of nontravel-related Zika infection have been reported; all are believed to have originated in the same area -- a neighborhood known as Wynwood -- that saw the first locally acquired infections crop up last month. This latest announcement brings the number of Florida residents with locally transmitted infections to 21.

In a news release issued the same day,(www.flgov.com) Gov. Scott denounced federal lawmakers' inability to reach consensus on how best to combat the outbreak and called for immediate congressional action to fund a robust response to the national Zika threat. "The federal government must stop playing politics, and Congress needs to immediately come back to session to resolve this," said Scott.

Indeed, it's a campaign the AAFP has itself championed on more than one occasion. That call-to-action has now taken on a particular urgency in light of reports from major news outlets(khn.org) that HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell informed congressional appropriators last week that the administration's remaining Zika funding would be exhausted by Sept. 30 or sooner.

Ironically, this news came just as the NIH announced(www.nih.gov) that its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) had commenced human safety trials on an investigational DNA vaccine to prevent Zika infection.

"A safe and effective vaccine to prevent Zika virus infection and the devastating birth defects it causes is a public health imperative," said NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, M.D., in the announcement. "NIAID worked expeditiously to ready a vaccine candidate, and results in animal testing have been very encouraging. We are pleased that we are now able to proceed with this initial study in people.

"Although it will take some time before a vaccine against Zika is commercially available, the launch of this study is an important step forward."

Initial safety and immunogenicity data from this Phase 1 trial are expected by January 2017. If the results demonstrate a favorable safety profile and immune response, NIAID plans to initiate a Phase 2 efficacy trial in countries in which the virus is endemic in early 2017.

Related AAFP News Coverage
How Utah Zika Infection Was Transmitted Remains Mystery
Female-to-Male Transmission Confirmed in New York; CDC Says Olympics Shouldn't Increase Disease Spread


New CDC Interim Guidance Parses Zika Testing Recommendations
MMWR Provides Detailed Breakdown of How to Interpret Results


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