The mosquito-borne Zika virus, which can cause devastating birth defects when pregnant women become infected, has rapidly eclipsed Ebola in the news.

The swift attentions stems from the fact that the contagion is spreading so rapidly that the World Health Organization (WHO) projects up to 4 million people could be infected by the end of 2016.

Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the W.H.O., said she was convening an emergency meeting on Monday to decide whether to declare a public health emergency. The move was a signal of how seriously the global health agency was treating the outbreak of the virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, after widespread criticism that it had allowed the last major global health crisis — Ebola — to fester for months without a coordinated, effective strategy.

“The level of alarm is extremely high,” Dr. Chan said in a speech in Geneva.

The President of Colombia seconds Chan’s concerns:

…[Colombian President Juan Manuel] Santos tells The Associated Press in an interview that “Zika in the short run is a big threat. People are scared.”

He says the virus’ spread has the potential to do more damage to Colombia’s booming tourism industry than periodic U.S. travel warnings about visiting the conflict-battered country.

Colombia is the second hardest-hit country in Latin America from Zika after Brazil. It has more than 16,000 confirmed or suspected cases.

However, in a move that should offer cold comfort to Americans everywhere, an Obama administration official doubts the United States is likely to see a significant outbreak.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the Zika (ZEE’-kuh) virus – suspected of being connected to microcephaly – hopefully can be kept at bay with “mosquito vector control.”

Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, appeared on “CBS This Morning.” He tells interviews administration officials do not believe there are major ways of spreading the virus “other than by mosquito bites.”

Let’s assess the current reports, to determine if we should actually believe Fauci.

How many Zika infections are in the United States currently? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates 31 as of today, though it is still working to come up with a comprehensive list of states reporting cases.

“At this time we are not sharing the state[s]. We hope to provide a comprehensive list within the next day or two,” CDC spokesman Benjamin Haynes told in an email.

Based on my research, there are known cases in:

1) New York
2) Hawaii
3) Texas
4) Illinois
5) Florida
6) California
7) Virginia
8) Minnesota
9) Massachusetts
10) New Jersey
11) Arkansas

I suspect if we wait long enough, there will be cases in all 57 states!

I am troubled by some discussions that have arisen to dismiss the reasonable concerns that American have about this potential pandemic. For example, a report entitled “Zika virus cases move closer to the U.S.“, seems to indicate it is not in this country.

Quite clearly, it is here.

The Obama Administration “expert” focused on the virus being related to a mosquito. However, the mechanism of virus transfer is via the blood (i.e., bug bites infected person, sucks up virus, then spread the viral load to next victim). So while mosquito-control is critical to success, it is important to note that the virus is found in the blood, mother’s milk, and semen. Therefore, assessing risk related to blood transfusion and sexual transmission will be required for a full response to this disease.

In the news reports, experts point to one type of mosquito, the Aedes aegypti, as the source of the contagion. This species is found in the southern US, the tropics, and subtropical regions around the world. But scientists are now investigating if another type, the more common culex, could be spreading the virus as well.

Since it can’t contain the virus, WHO called the emergency committee meeting to contain potential panic.

This is an important consideration of the director-general in calling (the meeting) is to ensure that there are no inappropriate measures taken by member states in terms of travel or trade. That is a major consideration of the director-general,” WHO assistant director Bruce Aylward told reporters.

While WHO holds committee meetings and the CDC gathers new data, Brazil is sending 200,000 soldier to combat mosquitoes.

It appears that the fight against Zika and the mosquitoes that carry it has just begun, at least in Brazil. I hope our officials take the threat to American public health as seriously.


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