October 14, Morrisville, North Carolina: As the seasons and temperatures shift, Zika outbreaks will begin occurring in different parts of the world, according to VIGILINT, an international health protection company. The impact in the US primarily affects international travelers and residents in specific Florida areas, however, internationally, Southeast Asia is experiencing an explosion of local transmission reports.
Domestically, the Florida Department of Health has recorded over 150 cases of local Zika transmission in the state, primarily located in Miami-Dade County. While Miami Beach is the only current confirmed area of active-local transmission, other areas of the state have seen sporadic local transmission. And although the small cluster of cases is not considered a widespread endemic, the CDC continues to advise pregnant women and their partners to consider deferring nonessential travel to all of Miami and to protect themselves against mosquito bites in the Miami area. “All travelers and residents of Miami should zealously use effective mosquito precautions.” said Dr. Sean Siler, VIGILINT President and Chief Medical Officer. “The impact of Zika is still of grave concern for the Miami area.”
Marking the first outbreak in 2016 outside of the Americas, more than 400 locally acquired cases of Zika have been reported in Singapore. The CDC has advised pregnant women to avoid all travel to Singapore. Additionally, cautioning women who are trying to become pregnant and their partners to also avoid travel or take extra precautions. Zika has also been discovered locally in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and possibly throughout the entire Southeastern Asia region. The CDC has also advised pregnant women to consider postponing nonessential travel to Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, the Philippines, East Timor, and Vietnam. Governments in Singapore and Thailand appear to be responding aggressively to control the outbreaks and those countries.
In the US, there have been significant backlogs to combat Zika. However, in September 29, after an 8-month debate in Washington, Congress agreed to provide $1.1 billion to fight the spread of Zika. Vaccines are in development but the timeline for vaccine release is not clear. CDC guidelines severely limit the availability and affordability of Zika testing in both public and private clinics, with significant backlogs in Florida health departments. Current guidelines do not recommend testing for couples hoping to conceive or for men with potential exposure to Zika, both critical groups for the prevention of Zika transmission. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is pursuing several vaccine candidates. Results from the first clinical trial of Zika vaccine in humans is expected in early 2017.
VIGILINT’S team of physicians and pandemic planning experts continue to monitor the spread of the Zika virus and it implications within the emergency response framework.