Zika Virus continues to be a problem in the US and Territories. Within the states, no cases of transmission have been reported yet which may change as we go into summer. Over 500 cases of Zika have been acquired by residents of US states during travel to other countries. New York and Florida residents each account for 20% of the cases. The remaining 60% are relatively evenly distributed among the other 48 states.
The hot spot for Zika transmission in the US territories in Puerto Rico with over 650 cases acquired by local transmission. These are only the reported cases as some people may experience only mild symptoms and never be medically diagnosed. More worrisome are 65 cases confirmed in pregnant women including one case of microcephaly in a fetus. So far 5 cases of Zika associated Guillain-Barré syndrome have been reported.
The potential medical costs of Zika are high and far higher than the amount requested by the Obama administration for mosquito control, disease prevention and research. Even members of Congress agree that funding is critical to stop the spread of Zika, at least in public pronouncements. Senator Durbin (IL) urges his colleagues, “Let’s not be penny wise and pound foolish. Cutting back on this money for pregnant women and running the risk that a baby born with a lifetime of medical challenges and expenses is no savings.”
One might expect the US to be expanding its mosquito programs at the state level and providing funding to help Puerto Rico which is currently experiencing an economic crisis. The administration and some state governments have increased activities within the scope of their budgets. However, much action is being delayed by a lack of funding. Money for Zika is only now being put to votes in Congress after several months of delays. More delays are anticipated as the Senate and the House disagree on the level of funding. It may be July before new funding is approved. By then, it will be too late to have much impact on 2016 as we will already be well into mosquito season.