CDC Issues Unprecedented Travel Warning Over Zika Virus Outbreak

In a highly unusual travel warning, health officials advised pregnant women to avoid a part of Miami where mosquitoes are apparently transmitting Zika directly to humans. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention officials said they could not remember another time in their 70-year history when they told people not to travel someplace in the U.S.

From The Washington Post,

Federal health authorities on Monday urged pregnant women not to visit a South Florida neighborhood where new cases of the Zika virus have emerged, the first time officials have warned against travel to part of the continental United States due to the outbreak of an infectious disease.

Officials issued the “unprecedented” warning following the identification of 10 new infections in a dense urban pocket north of downtown Miami, and after “aggressive” efforts to combat Zika’s mosquito-borne spread had proved insufficient.

“It is truly a scary situation,” said Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This is a really tough mosquito to control.”

The travel warnings and growing outbreak mark a troubling but not unexpected turn for efforts to stem the virus’s spread through the United States, and they could have profound impacts on Florida’s tourism-heavy economy. It also demonstrates how even the best prepared communities may struggle to deal with a virus that spreads so readily.

Most people infected with Zika don’t show symptoms, but the virus can have devastating consequences during pregnancy. A woman infected with Zika can pass the disease to her fetus, stunting brain development and causing other severe defects.

Almost all of the 1,661 Zika infections in the continental U.S. came from travelers to Puerto Rico or nearly 50 countries such as Brazil and Colombia where outbreaks are widespread. But 14 cases of Zika infections caused by mosquito bites in the United States have been announced by health officials since Friday, leading to worries of an expanding local spread.

The primary species of mosquitoes that has so far carried the virus is present in 30 U.S. states, and the South’s warm, humid climates are particularly fertile ground for Aedes aegypti, a breed that only bites humans and thrives in urban neighborhoods. A second mosquito species, Aedes albopictus, can also carry the virus.

The CDC’s travel warning covered only about a square mile of north Miami, Frieden said, because that mosquito typically travels only 150 meters during its lifetime. But the threat could arise in other communities across the United States, because 40 million people travel to Zika-affected areas every year and could silently pass on the virus to mosquitoes and lead to new outbreaks.

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Get the full facts about the Zika virus, state and county government prevention efforts, and how geographic information system (GIS) mapping technology can help track and minimize Zika and other contagion outbreaks at the 2016 MACo Summer Conference.

Here are more details:

Outbreak! Responding to the Zika Threat

Description

While the Zika virus has made international news headlines over the last year, few people truly understand what the virus is and the role county governments play in preventing its spread. For example, mosquito control is an important local responsibility that can significantly reduce the spread of Zika. If an outbreak does occur, counties can use Geographic Information System (GIS) and related technology to monitor and track the virus. Panelists will provide an overview of the Zika virus, including its symptoms, treatment, and transmission; county actions and responsibilities to combat Zika; and the use of GIS technology to track and manage identified cases.

Speakers

  • Leana Wen, MD MSc, Commissioner of Health, Baltimore City
  • Brian Prendergast, Mosquito Control Program Manager, Maryland Department of Agriculture
  • Scott Shalley, Executive Director, Florida Association of Counties
  • Michael Scott, PhD, Professor, Department of Geography and Geosciences, Henson School of Science and Technology, Salisbury University

Moderator: The Honorable Joseline Peña-Melnyk, Maryland House of Delegates (invited)

Date & Time: Thursday, August 18, 2016; 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

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