Health Care

Obama to shift Ebola funds to fight Zika; Florida leads nation in cases

In this February 2016 photo, President Barack Obama asks Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help fight the Zika virus. The White House said the money would be used to expand mosquito control programs, speed development of a vaccine, develop diagnostic tests and improve support for low-income pregnant women.
In this February 2016 photo, President Barack Obama asks Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help fight the Zika virus. The White House said the money would be used to expand mosquito control programs, speed development of a vaccine, develop diagnostic tests and improve support for low-income pregnant women. AP

Florida health officials confirmed two new Zika virus infections on Wednesday, including one case each in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, as the Obama administration announced it will shift about $510 million earmarked for Ebola to the new front in the fight against Zika.

Florida has reported a total of 82 cases of Zika virus infection since February, most in the nation. Nearly all of Florida’s confirmed Zika infections were contracted by people traveling outside the country, though at least one case was transmitted by sex in Polk County, health officials said.

In anticipation of warm and humid months ahead, which will lead to a rise in the disease’s primary vector, mosquitoes, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Acting State Surgeon General Celeste Philip hosted a conference call on Wednesday with state mosquito control districts to discuss preparations.

There is no specific medicine or vaccine for Zika virus, which causes symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes lasting from a week to 10 days, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency advises that the best way to prevent acquiring the disease is for people to protect against mosquitoes using repellants such as DEET, and for men who have contracted the disease to abstain from sex or use a condom.

Pregnant women and their fetuses are at greatest risk from Zika because of recent findings establishing a link in Brazil between an outbreak of Zika and a concurrent spike in microcephaly, a birth defect in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head and an underdeveloped brain.

A team led by Purdue University researchers became the first to determine structure of the Zika virus, shown in this video, which will provide insights critical to the development of antiviral treatments and vaccines.

Zika virus cases in Florida as of April 6

County

Number of Cases

Alachua

4

Brevard

2

Broward

12

Clay

1

Collier

1

Hillsborough

3

Lee

3

Miami-Dade

33

Orange

5

Osceola

4

Palm Beach

3

Polk

3

Santa Rosa

1

Seminole

1

St. Johns

1

Cases involving pregnant women*

5

Total

82

* Counties of pregnant women not disclosed

Source: Florida Department of Health

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