Starting in early 2016, reports since May 2015 of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, and the connection between the virus and brain defects in newborns, led to rapidly increasing attention to the potential for the virus to spread further. The virus is known to be carried by two mosquito species, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, which breed in areas of standing water.
According to a January 2016 Virginia Department of Health news release, “The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms can last from several days to a week. There is no vaccine to prevent and no medicine to treat Zika virus infection.” On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Health Regulations Emergency Committee held a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on the virus and on the observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations, including microcephaly (reduced head size). In April 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced scientists had confirmed a link between the virus and birth defects in newborns (see It’s confirmed. Zika virus causes microcephaly and other birth defects, CDC says, PBS NewsHour, 4/13/16).
In late August 2016, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that it had spent $194 million of the $222 million that Congress had authorized the agency to spend on fighting the spread of Zika in the United States. Source: U.S. Funding for Fighting Zika Virus Is Nearly Spent, C.D.C. Says, New York Times, 8/30/16.
As of September 1, 2016, the CDC reported that 2964 Zika virus disease cases had been reported in the 50 states and D.C., with 15,869 cases reported in U.S. territories. Also as of 9/1/16, the number of pregnant women with any laboratory evidence of Zika infection was 671 in the 50 states and D.C. and 1080 in U.S. territories (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/).
In late February 2016, Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe created a statewide Zika task force to help guide local mosquito surveillance and control activities. As of mid-April 2016, 11 cases had been reported in Virginia, all related to travel to Zika-affected countries; by July 13, 2016, 38 such cases had been reported, according to the Virginia Department of Health. On April 11, 2016, Virginia’s Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services began in-state testing of blood samples for the virus, after having received approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a Zika testing lab (previously, samples from Virginia were sent to the CDC). On July 13, 2016, Gov. McAuliffe announced that Virginia’s Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) would begin testing mosquitoes in targeted areas across the state to help determine if the Zika virus is present in those areas.
Other Sources of Information about the Zika Virus (as of 7/14/16, all URL’s noted were functional)
PBS NewsHour reports (started in January 2016), online at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/tag/zika-virus/.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Zika Virus,” online at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/; and “Surveillance and Control of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the United States,” online at http://www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/resources/vector-control.html.
World Health Organization, “Zika Virus,” online at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/.
Virginia Department of Health, “Zika Virus,” online at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/zika-virus-update/, as of 7/13/16.
Virginia Resident Tests Positive for Zika Virus after Travel in Zika-Affected Country, Virginia Department of Health News Release, 1/26/16.
Governor McAuliffe Creates Task Force to Address Zika Virus, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 2/26/16.
CDC approves Virginia lab to test for Zika, Richmond Times-Dispatch, as published by Roanoke Times, 4/18/16.
Virginia’s State Laboratory to Begin Testing Mosquitoes for Zika Virus; Testing essential to detect presence of virus in local mosquitoes, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 7/13/16.
Areas with “active Zika virus transmission,” as reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of June 30, 2016. Map accessed at CDC Web site, http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/active-countries.html, 7/14/16.