President Obama announced yesterday that he plans to ask Congress for $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help combat the Zika Virus. According to the Wall Street Journal, if approved, the largest portion of funding, $828 million, would go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for programs such as prevention and response, including mosquito control and surveillance efforts to track the virus. The request reportedly also includes $200 million for research on new vaccines and diagnostic tests and $210 million for other activities by the US Department of Health and Human Services such as the creating a new emergency threat fund to tackle Zika and other outbreaks.
Before the President announced his call for funding, SERMO doctors weighed in on what it would take to avoid a Zika Virus outbreak in the United States. Nearly half of the 1,315 doctors surveyed said they think an outbreak is inevitable while 29 percent said it could be prevented with increased funding, travel limitations, research and prevention measures such as mosquito eradication. Twenty-two percent said they think current measures being taken by officials are sufficient to contain the Zika Virus.
Doctors from around the world have been talking about the Zika Virus on SERMO for more than a month, with dozens of discussion threads on the topic.
One hematologist/oncologist said, “There are other diseases carried by mosquitos. In spite of fears and knowledge, these diseases continue to spread and so do mosquitos. Other diseases are worse, so whatever is done will be too little, too late.
A gastroenterologist added, “The natural history of the disease is unclear. Until the information we have is accurate, the chances of fear driven overreaction may be justified. It would be politically suicidal for public health authorities to act in any manner other than with a sense of alarm. Every child born with microcephaly, whatever the cause, will continue to be a fear poster for Zika. Call it the ISIS of medicine!”
In addition to polling doctors about how to prevent an outbreak of Zika Virus, SERMO also asked doctors about travel warnings regarding Zika and where lab tests should be available.
- 68% of 4,085 global doctors think travel warnings should be extended beyond pregnant women to include all women of fertile ages
- 59% of 2,241 U.S. doctors think that lab tests for Zika Virus should be available at local/state public health laboratories in addition to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC); 33% want testing at their facility and 8% said it should be only offered at the CDC
Dr. James M. Wilson, Nevada State Infectious Disease Forecast Station, School of Community Health Science, University of Nevada-Reno, added his thoughts on the potential for an outbreak in the U.S. and the travel warnings in place.
Wilson said, “It is our assessment that sustained epidemic transmission of Zika in the United States is highly unlikely except for potential transmission in local areas in California, Texas and Florida, where there are large populations of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. However, I believe the Zika virus is a national security issue and all fertile adults should be cautious in traveling abroad.”
“This international public health emergency is a great example of how SERMO can help improve public health around the world,” said Peter Kirk, CEO of SERMO. “Doctors are coming together across borders and geographies to share what they’re seeing to learn about the virus and the terrible conditions it is associated with. They are also asking questions to help with their practices. The network has become a instrumental resource for real-world physicians at this time of need.”