CDC official: Zika is the 'most difficult' emergency response ever

Brian Zimmerman - Print  | 

On Thursday at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, Anne Schuchat, MD, the principal deputy director of the CDC, categorized the task of responding to the Zika virus as "the most difficult" emergency response the agency has ever had to undertake, according to The Atlantic.

According to The Atlantic, responding to the Zika outbreak is difficult for four main reasons:

1. Most of the people infected do not display symptoms, which makes transmission prevention difficult.

2. The virus has two modes of transmission. It is primarily spread by the Aedes aegypti — a pest that can be tough to control — but it can also be transmitted sexually, which officials did not know at the beginning of the outbreak.

3. The most damaging effects of a Zika infection come well after the infection has subsided. This is true for its effects on fetuses and the onset of the autoimmune disorder Guillain-Barré in adults.

4. Officials knew very little about the virus when the outbreak began. In The Atlantic, Robert Califf, MD, director of the Food and Drug Administration, said, "Imagine getting a call, [and hearing] 'Is the blood supply safe? Do we have a diagnostic test? Do we have a vaccine that can prevent the disease? Do we have a treatment that works?' The answer to all four is 'No. We have nothing. We're starting from scratch with this disease.'"

The public health response to Zika has been muddied as emergency funding to combat the virus has stagnated in Washington due to the extreme bifurcation of America's two political parties.

In February, President Barack Obama asked for nearly $2 billion to be allocated for the Zika fight. Subsequently in May, the Senate compromised with legislation designating $1.1 billion to the cause, then the House countered with a proposal for $622.1 million.

Shortly after 3 a.m. Thursday, House Republicans passed an appropriations bill including $1.1 billion in emergency Zika funds after a sit-in on the House floor led by Democrats incited by the failure of gun control legislation. The funds for the House bill would largely be siphoned from other federal programs associated with the Affordable Care Act and funds previously allocated to fight Ebola. According to The Atlantic, President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the bill.

Congress is currently adjourned for their annual Fourth of July recess.

More articles on the Zika virus: 
Scientists identify human proteins Zika virus requires to replicate  
5 athletes opting to skip Olympics due to Zika  
10,000 pregnant women to be enrolled in multinational Zika study 

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