Last week, while Arizona was still reeling from the fall out that accompanied the Arizona Presidential Preference Election (PPE) the week before, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) announced the state’s first case of Zika virus in a Maricopa County resident. In a press release [Ref 1] issued on Monday, March 28, 2016, the agency indicated that the resident is an older adult woman who traveled outside of the United States to a Zika affected area before developing symptoms of illness.
“We have been expecting a travel associated case of Zika virus and we believe more infections are likely as people travel to and from areas where the disease is currently being transmitted,” said Cara Christ, MD, MS, director of ADHS. “While this is a first, the risk of this virus spreading throughout Arizona is very low. Arizona’s public health system has a plan in place and we are ready to rapidly respond.”
CDC data through March 31, 2016 show the following stats for Zika in the United States and its territories:
- Travel-associated Zika virus disease cases reported: 312
- Locally acquired vector-borne cases reported: 0
- Of the 312 cases reported, 27 were pregnant women, 6 were sexually transmitted, and 1 had Guillain-Barré syndrome
Territories (American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico):
- Travel-associated cases reported: 3
- Locally acquired cases reported: 349
- Of the 352 cases reported, 37 were pregnant women and 1 had Guillain-Barré syndrome.
As the week progressed, so did hearings and public meetings on the recent election snafu that included calls for an additional voting day and/or a recount of the ballots cast. While all of that was occurring, another Zika related event occurred at the end of the week that is also worth mentioning in this post. CDC hosted the U.S. Zika Action Plan Summit and Press Conference in Atlanta, GA on April 1, 2016. The purpose of the summit was to provide state and local senior officials with information and tools needed to improve Zika preparedness and response within their states and jurisdictions.
Included in the above was a discussion of the Zika Virus Risk-Based Preparedness and Response Guidance for States. This plan outlines actions that each state should consider as risks increase for locally acquired cases of Zika from the first hours–days upon laboratory confirmation of the first locally acquired (transmitted by the bite of a local vector) case of Zika virus infection in their state.
After listening in on the hour-long press conference that occurred around the midpoint of the summit, my take-away is that the CDC learned a valuable lesson from the Ebola virus disease that threatened the U.S. population about 18 months ago and that most health officials were ill-prepared to address. [See NUMBERS: Ebola Virus Disease (EVD))]
CDC is taking a more aggressive and proactive approach to combat this mosquito borne virus. Rather than waiting for the first locally acquired vector-borne case to occur, CDC and others have already assumed that this will happen. The agency and other health organizations have been working since the beginning of this year to lay the foundation for controlling and responding to this mosquito borne illness.
CDC activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on January 22, 2016, and moved to a Level 1 activation—the highest level – on February 8, 2016. The EOC is the command center for monitoring and coordinating the emergency response to Zika, bringing together CDC scientists with expertise in arboviruses like Zika, reproductive health, birth defects, and developmental disabilities, and travel health. Their work includes developing laboratory tests to diagnose Zika, conducting studies to learn more about the link between Zika and microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome, and providing ground support to Puerto Rico, Brazil, Columbia, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Panama.
Active transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus is predicted to hit the United States this summer. Are you ready?
- News Release: Arizona’s first Zika case recorded in traveler, March 28, 2016, http://www.azdhs.gov/director/public-information-office/index.php#news-release-032816
- Zika Action Plan Summit, Sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control, April 21, 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/zap/index.html