Zika Virus continues to persist in mosquito populations in the Miami Beach, FL area. The state of Florida has stepped up aerial spraying of insecticides to kill mosquito adults. The primary pesticide in use is naled, an organophosphate insecticide. Resistance of mosquitos to pyrethroid insecticides which have fewer mammalian safety hazards limits their in favor of naled. Still, naled is a low risk insecticides that can be sprayed in populated areas. Insecticides that target mosquitos, including naled, are typiclly toxic to bees. Naled was implicated in South Carolina bee kills earlier this month. In Miami Beach, naled is applied at daybreak to limit the harmful effect on bees that are present in the area.
Miami Beach is using mosquito larvicides to reduce the future adult mosquito population. Generally, larvicides are more effective mosquito control and effects on non-target species are less. The most widely used larvicides have minimal effect on fish. Any pesticides use will have undesirable effects. The undesirable effects should be minimized and the benefits out weight the costs, both economic and environmental.
The CDC is reporting that the occurrence of birth defects in Brazilian infants since the introduction of Zika into Brazil has doubled. Microcephaly is the most severe outcome of Zika, but other significant neurological damage is reported including infants with problems swallowing, vision and hearing. Some effects of Zika will linger with their victims for decades.
Funding of Zika continues to be stalled in Congress. The current impasse is over banning some health care providers from receiving Zika funding. One of the major organizations that provides low cost health services to women has become politically controversial. Some legislators want to deny funding while others oppose its denial. From a public health perspective, any measures that restrict the distribution of testing and other services is counterproductive. This issue has delayed $1.1 billion in funding for Zika control, monitoring and research. The request is far less than the Obama administration had requested at the beginning of the year, but would be better than no funding. The CDC is stating that available funds for Zika are almost exhausted. Perhaps Congress can address this public health crisis by the end of September, just as the mosquito season ends? As for next year’s funding, Congress cannot agree on a budget. It will be up to the newly elected Congress to decide on Zika funding next year. Will they take the Zika public health issue more seriously, or continue to use it to demand political concessions?