Posted & filed under Asterisk, Medical Travel Risk.

On Monday, February 8, the Obama administration said it would ask Congress for $1.8 billion in emergency funding to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus. So far there has not been nearly the number of cases reported in the United States as have been reported in more southern countries such as Brazil; however, with the spring and summer months approaching, that could quickly change. Currently, there are 50 laboratory-confirmed Zika cases in the continental U.S. – all travel-related and not locally acquired. Brazil, in contrast, now has over a million people infected with Zika.

A few short hours after the White House made its official Zika announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also announced that its emergency operations center in Atlanta, GA, was on its highest level of alert. There are now more than 300 CDC staff monitoring and coordinating the Zika response in the command center. The CDC’s work will include:

  • Developing laboratory tests to diagnose the Zika virus
  • Conducting studies to learn more about the possible links to microcephaly and Guillain Barré syndrome
  • Surveillance of the virus in the United States (including U.S. territories)
  • On-the-ground support in Puerto Rico, Brazil and Colombia

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are now seven countries that have reported an increased incidence of microcephaly and/or Guillain-Barré syndrome where there is also an active Zika outbreak. The WHO’s global prevention and control strategy includes surveillance, response activities and research.

New developments in the transmission of Zika were reported on February 2, when the CDC confirmed the first case of Zika being sexually transmitted in the U.S. According to the report, a male traveler in Texas recently returned from Venezuela and subsequently infected his sexual partner who had not traveled. In response, the CDC has issued updated guidelines to prevent sexual transmission of Zika.

Over the weekend, an Indian biotech company says that it has two potential Zika vaccines that will be entering pre-clinical trials in animals in the next few weeks. Right now, there’s no indication as to how well these vaccines will work against the virus, but the news is promising nonetheless. In the meantime, researchers all over the world continue to work to find a viable vaccine.

For more information regarding Zika, read our previous update. Check back regularly for updates on the situation. We encourage our clients and customers to contact us 24/7 using the numbers provided in their program materials or via our website form if you are in need of assistance or have inquiries.

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