Developments Related To Local Zika Virus Transmission Continue To Make Headlines Daily
By Dr. James Palermo // August 31, 2016
Genetic modification could reduce affected mosquito population; orlando theme parks offer free mosquito protection
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Developments related to local Zika virus transmission and the effort to quell its spread continue to make headlines on a daily basis.
Zika Testing On The Fast-Track
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday issued emergency authorization for a Zika diagnostics test from Swiss drugmaker Roche, circumventing the usual approval channels as the regulator moves to fight the disease’s transmission in the U.S.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), through last week, the United States reported 2,517 Zika cases, 29 of which were likely acquired locally in Florida through mosquito bites and the rest brought in by travelers.
Also, over 9,000 additional cases have been reported in U.S. territories, mostly in Puerto Rico.
With FDA approval, Roche’s test now can be used to rapidly screen patients exhibiting Zika symptoms that meet CDC criteria, including fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes.
FDA Recommends Universal Donor Blood Testing For Zika
As Zika cases caused by local Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Florida rise and travelers from elsewhere continue to arrive with the disease, the FDA last week also recommended universal testing of donated blood across the United States to minimize the possibility of transmission through blood transfusion.
The expansion to universal testing will be a progressive process, so won’t happen all at once in every state.
In states and territories with active local, mosquito-borne transmission, which include Florida and Puerto Rico, the recommendations will go into effect immediately.
The FDA is advising blood bank programs in 11 other states, which are in proximity to areas where Zika is actively spreading via mosquitoes or where there are a significant number of cases related to other exposures, including sexual transmission, to begin testing within the next four weeks. Those states include Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, South Carolina and Texas.
Zika Transmitted From Female To Offspring
According to new findings by a research team out of the University of Texas, Galveston and published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, adult female mosquitoes can pass the Zika virus along to their offspring.
This finding makes clear the need for pesticide programs that kill both adult mosquitoes and their eggs.
The fact that the virus can be passed along to mosquito offspring makes Zika harder to control, and provides more incentive to explore genetic modification (GMO) as a solution.
GMO Mosquitoes To Help Fight Zika Virus
On Monday, incoming leaders of the Florida House said they will appeal to the federal government to allow the use of genetically engineered mosquitoes to help fight the Zika virus.
Genetically modified mosquitoes have been developed by a company called Oxitec and have been used in places such as the Cayman Islands, Brazil, Malaysia and Panama to affect the death of offspring before they reach adulthood and capability to carry and spread the virus.
According to the Oxitec website: OX513A is a self-limiting strain of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Males, which do not bite or transmit disease, are released to mate with wild females. The offspring of such matings die before becoming adults. With repeated releases of sufficient numbers of these self-limiting males, there is a reduction in the wild population to below the level needed to transmit disease according to models of disease transmission.
Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran said he plans to ask the federal government to allow emergency use of the technology in areas of Florida where transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus might occur.
Central Florida Theme Parks Approach Zika Risk Proactively
Although no local mosquito-transmitted case of the Zika virus has been reported in Central Florida, Orlando’s major theme parks, including Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando, are now offering free mosquito spray and lotion to visitors free of charge.
With very extensive and sophisticated mosquito control programs already in place, theme park officials say they’re offering the repellent as a precaution and to ease the fears of visitors.
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