Health Care

Federal Zika funding to arrive in next three months as researchers push for vaccine

Aedes aegypti mosquito
Aedes aegypti mosquito

As the number of locally-transmitted Zika cases continues to creep up, federal money is set to arrive in Florida during the next few months, and health officials plan to accelerate development of a vaccine.

The Florida Department of Health on Monday announced six new Zika infections that occurred in Miami Beach, where mosquitoes are transmitting the virus in a zone that covers two-thirds of the city. Three other local cases were identified as Miami-Dade residents, but the health department is investigating where the exposure occurred.

And there were three more cases in which individuals traveled to both Miami-Dade and countries where the transmission of Zika is widespread. The state couldn’t determine where their exposure had occurred.

On a conference call Monday held by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, federal health officials said money from the $1.1 billion funding package to fight the spread of the Zika virus will start to reach the states during the next three months. The package is supposed to pay for increased mosquito control, fund faster diagnostic tests and replenish dollars that had been reallocated from emergency funding and other research initiatives this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is getting $394 million that it hopes to use to partner with universities to improve mosquito control methods.

The money is also supposed to bolster research into a vaccine. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is receiving $152 million for development of a vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the institute, said the first round of clinical trials for a vaccine began in August, and with the bump in funding, the second phase is expected to start in January.

Trial locations for the second phase are expected to be among larger populations outside the continental U.S. where Zika is spreading, like in Brazil and Puerto Rico. As transmission of the virus continues in South Florida, the Miami area could serve as a site for trials.

“It is quite conceivable that we will be doing testing in the Unites States,” Fauci said.

Federal health officials are considering nine total vaccine candidates to prevent Zika, and the additional funding would allow the testing of multiple candidates.

Over the weekend, the Florida Department of Agriculture announced that more Zika-positive mosquitoes were trapped in Miami Beach, this time in the Middle Beach area of the city. The insects were retrieved on Sept. 20 from a trap at a single-family home at 575 W. 49th St.

Miami Beach contains the only two zones of active transmission of Zika in the U.S. Officials said last week the first area in South Beach, between Eighth and 28th streets, from the ocean to Biscayne Bay, has not had a confirmed local transmission since Sept. 12. If no more local infections are confirmed by Oct. 27, the travel advisory for this area could be lifted.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech

Zika infections reported in Florida as of Oct. 2

County

Number of Cases (all travel related)

Alachua

10

Bay

3

Brevard

14

Broward**

116

Charlotte

1

Citrus

2

Clay

4

Collier

7

Duval

8

Escambia

3

Flagler

2

Hernando

4

Highlands

1

Hillsborough

23

Lake

3

Lee

12

Leon

2

Manatee

4

Marion

3

Martin

2

Miami-Dade**

236

Monroe

5

Nassau

1

Okaloosa

3

Okeechobee

1

Orange

84

Osceola

30

Palm Beach**

37

Pasco

8

Pinellas**

16

Polk

27

Santa Rosa

1

Sarasota

3

Seminole

22

St. Johns

4

St. Lucie

5

Volusia

9

Total cases not involving pregnant women

716

. . .

. . .

Cases involving pregnant women regardless of symptoms*

99

* counties with pregnant women are not identified

** does not include local cases

Source: Florida

  Comments