Health, government leaders collaborate on Zika action plans
MelissaJenco, News Content Editor
Health experts and government officials from around the country gathered Friday for
a summit to coordinate their response to Zika virus as mosquito season approaches.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Zika Action Plan Summit included talks on a wide range of issues including diagnostics, protection for pregnant
women, services for children with birth defects, mosquito control and communication.
“Partnerships between pediatricians and public health colleagues are critical to aid
families and their children in the prevention, identification of illness and referral
to appropriate community resources,” said Fan Tait, M.D., FAAP, AAP associate executive
director and director of the Department of Child Health and Wellness who represented
the Academy at the summit. “This meeting increases our nation’s preparedness to respond
to a virus that is affecting pregnant women and newborns.”
At least 300 people attended the event in person and more than 2,000 watched online.
The summit came just one day after the World Health Organization released a situation report on Zika in which it used its strongest language yet to link Zika virus to microcephaly and other conditions.
“Based on observational, cohort and case-control studies there is strong scientific
consensus that Zika virus is a cause of GBS (Guillain-Barré syndrome), microcephaly and other neurological disorders,” it said.
CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. was more cautious Friday, saying he “anticipate(s)
that that causal connection (with GBS) will be confirmed in the near future.”
“In terms of the formal criteria for causality (of microcephaly) that is something
we’re looking at closely and we will have more information about in the coming days,”
During a press conference, federal officials repeatedly urged Congress to approve
a $1.9 billion funding request to combat Zika.
“Without additional resources we will not be able to get resources to the state and
local entities they need for a robust response,” Dr. Frieden said. “We won’t be able
to do innovations we need to try to get ahead of not just this mosquito-borne threat
but … other threats as well. And we need resources in order to provide Americans with
the protection they deserve.”
Zika currently is being transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in more than three dozen countries and territories in Latin America and
the Caribbean. However, officials say they anticipate mosquitoes in the continental
U.S. eventually will start to spread the virus. The CDC recently updated its maps showing where Aedes mosquitoes have been known to circulate.
For the 20% of those infected who display symptoms, the illness is mild and may include
fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The virus is a nationally notifiable disease
and should be reported to local, state or territorial health departments to facilitate
testing. The CDC also is asking health care providers to contribute data to its new
Zika pregnancy registry that will follow children exposed to Zika for up to age 1 year.