Zika likely here to stay, says CDC director

On Tuesday, Tom Frieden, MD, the director of the CDC, delivered sobering news regarding the staying power of Zika during The Atlantic's CityLab conference at the InterContinental Miami hotel.

Dr. Frieden described the spread of pathogens like Zika as the "new normal" in an age of global travel and trade, dense metropolises and climate change, which is fueling migrations across the planet.

According to the Miami Herald, Dr. Frieden told the crowd, "Here's the plain truth: that Zika and other diseases spread by Aedes aegypti [mosquito species] are really not controllable with current technologies. So we will see this become endemic."

While aerial spraying campaigns successfully eliminated Zika carrying mosquitoes from the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood, where local transmission of the virus was first detected in the U.S., transmission has persisted in Miami Beach, as well as the city's Little River neighborhood. The Aedes aegypti is a difficult mosquito to kill because it has been living in close proximity to people for centuries, hiding in closets, under beds and in other household areas where pesticide spraying campaigns do not reach. Ending local transmission is further complicated by the fact that the virus can be spread sexually.

The Florida Department of Health has reported more than 1,000 Zika infections in the state, 200 of which stem from local transmission, although the actual number of local infections is likely much higher.

According to the Herald, Dr. Frieden said, "A rule of thumb is for every case you diagnose, you've probably got 10 more."

More than 100 pregnant women have been diagnosed with Zika in the state of Florida. With local transmission ongoing, Miami physicians are preparing for the potential arrival of a significant number of babies born with the neurologically debilitating birth defect microcephaly.

Regarding Zika's staying power, Michael Callahan, MD, tropical disease specialist with Massachusetts General in Boston and the CEO and co-founder of the Zika Foundation, has been fighting the Aedes aegypti mosquito for nearly two decades.

"Unfortunately," Dr. Callahan told NPR, "in all of our Zika mosquito control efforts in southeast Asia, West Africa and here in the tropical Americas, once the virus has entered the local Aedes mosquito populations, we've never been able to get it out — totally out."

More articles on the Zika virus: 
CDC makes additional $70M available for Zika fight 
Donated blood tests positive for Zika in Florida 
CDC strengthens Zika travel guidance for Miami-Dade

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