ATLANTA, GA – Today, more than 300 local, state, and federal government officials; health experts; and non-government partners are gathering at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prepare for the likelihood of mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus in some parts of the continental United States. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa already are experiencing active Zika transmission.
Hosted by CDC, the one-day Zika Action Plan Summit brings together officials from local, state and federal jurisdictions, as well as non-government organizations, to help ensure a coordinated response to the mosquito-borne illness linked to the devastating birth defect microcephaly. The summit aims to identify gaps in readiness and provide technical support to states in the development of Zika action plans that will allow their jurisdictions to effectively prepare for and respond to active Zika transmission they may experience.
“The mosquitoes that carry Zika virus are already active in U.S. territories, hundreds of travelers with Zika have already returned to the continental U.S., and we could well see clusters of Zika virus in the continental U.S. in the coming months. Urgent action is needed, especially to minimize the risk of exposure during pregnancy,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Everyone has a role to play. With federal support, state and local leaders and their community partners will develop a comprehensive action plan to fight Zika in their communities.”
Summit attendees will hear the latest scientific knowledge about Zika, including implications for pregnant women and strategies for mosquito control. The meeting also includes opportunities to learn about best communications practices; identify possible gaps in preparedness and response at the federal, state, and local levels; and help begin to address those gaps, including through the refinement of draft Zika action plans. Representatives from state and local jurisdictions will meet with experts to get technical assistance and guidance on their Zika action plans.
“The Administration is coordinating a whole-of-government effort to ensure that we are taking all available steps to prepare for Zika and work together with state, local, tribal, and territorial officials to protect Americans,” said Amy Pope, J.D., White House Deputy Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy Assistant to the President. “That’s why President Obama has requested $1.9 billion to prepare for, detect, and respond to any potential Zika outbreaks here at home, and limit the spread in other countries.”
Presenters will include CDC experts on Zika’s risk to pregnant women and their fetuses, identification and diagnosis of Zika, mosquito control, and what local and state leaders can do. Representatives from Florida, New York City, Texas, and Puerto Rico will discuss state and local response to other mosquito-borne diseases, including chikungunya, dengue, and West Nile virus.
Also today, CDC released a Vital Signs report with information that reinforces previous CDC guidance and suggested actions that pregnant women and their partners can take to prevent Zika virus infection during pregnancy. The Vital Signs report describes what the U.S. government is doing, what state and local public health agencies and healthcare providers can do, and what can be done to prevent mosquito bites that potentially spread Zika. The report also includes an updated map of the U.S. with the latest available information on where the mosquitoes that can transmit the virus have been found.
Zika virus disease is caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, though Aedes aegypti are more likely to spread Zika. Sexual transmission also has been documented. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for Zika. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). In previous outbreaks, the illness has typically been mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. However, mounting evidence links Zika virus infection in pregnant women with a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly. Zika also has been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an uncommon sickness of the nervous system in which a person’s immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.