While Zika Spreads In The U.S., Congress Goes On Vacation
New cases of Zika in the U.S. are cause for concern, as they spread by routes not before seen. In Utah, an elderly man died with Zika, and a family member apparently contracted the infection from him. The CDC noted that the father’s blood carried extraordinarily high levels of virus—“more than 100,000 times higher than seen in other samples of infected people”—likely contributing to this first known case of person-to-person transmission of Zika.
Male-to-female sexual transmission of Zika has been known since 2011, when a researcher inadvertently infected his wife after his trip collecting mosquitoes in Africa, well-described by Martin Enserink.
This month, we also had the first reported female-to-male transmission of Zika through sexual intercourse, with a case in NYC. We will undoubtedly see far more cases of sexual transmission in the future—and likely many more are undetected because of the lack of funding for public health surveillance.
This week, we had the first cases of Zika that were likely locally acquired in Florida—no surprise, but disconcerting nonetheless. After all, Florida already has two other infections transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, Chikungunya and dengue.
Once again putting partisan politics above public health, Congress left for a seven-week vacation without funding President Obama’s and the CDC’s request for emergency Zika funding—made last February. While these new cases occurred after Congress skipped town, they reflect Congress’ shortsightedness in not proactively funding research and control efforts.