On Public Health Security - June 2016 - CDC and Partners Work Together to Fight the Zika Virus in Puerto Rico

On Public Health Security - June 2016 - CDC and Partners Work Together to Fight the Zika Virus in Puerto Rico

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On Public Health Security
June 2016
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Stephen C. Redd

Dear Partners,

As you are likely aware, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Microcephaly has devastating, long-term personal and financial effects on children and their families; the March of Dimes estimates that the lifetime cost of treating a child with microcephaly is more than $10 million. When I think of CDC’s efforts to fight Zika, I worry about each woman and child at risk. Lately though, I have thought particularly of the financial burden that comes with Zika infection. How do we help women who may not have access to resources to protect themselves from infection?

This question is particularly relevant in Puerto Rico, where almost half (46 percent) of the population lives below the poverty line. More than 30,000 babies are born in Puerto Rico every year, and the territory has recently seen a rapid increase in the number of Zika infections. As of June 22, there were more than 1,800 Zika cases in Puerto Rico; CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden expressed everyone’s concerns about the increase in cases when he said, “In the coming months, it's possible that thousands of pregnant women in Puerto Rico could become infected with Zika. This could lead to dozens or hundreds of infants being born with microcephaly.”

CDC has a number of efforts underway in Puerto Rico with many partners, but I want to specifically highlight work with two partners, the special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Puerto Rico Department of Health (PRDOH). With CDC support, these partners are conducting a multi-faceted campaign to help pregnant women protect themselves against Zika. WIC and CDC worked together so that PRDOH could operate a call center to provide information to pregnant women about free mosquito fumigation. These efforts have so far led to the CDC-funded indoor spraying of 2,713 homes of women in their first or second trimesters of pregnancy. In addition, WIC provided 19,652 pregnant woman with information about Zika infection and how to prevent it. WIC also distributed 10,891 Zika prevention kits provided by CDC and PRDOH. The kits contain bed nets, insect repellent, condoms, and standing water treatment tabs. An evaluation of the campaign is slated for July.

Although much more needs to be done in Puerto Rico and across the globe, the collaborations with WIC and PRDOH are examples of how we are working with partners on the ground to prevent the spread of Zika. CDC has also sent more than 300 staff to countries and territories with ongoing transmission of Zika, including more than 200 to Puerto Rico. Also, hundreds of CDC staff are working in our Emergency Operations Center and on Zika-related work across the agency. Altogether, over a thousand CDC staff have contributed to the response, working in collaboration with local, national, and international response partners to exchange information about the outbreak, provide essential laboratory assistance, support mosquito control programs, and more. You can find additional information about Zika and our response activities on the CDC Zika website.

Thank you,
Stephen C. Redd, MD
Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Noteworthy Events

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) is holding its annual conference from July 19-21. The theme for this year’s conference is “Cultivating a Culture of Health Equity.” Register now!


Resources and Information

CDC’s Zika Travel Information webpage provides the latest travel information and advice about preventing bug bites.

CDC’s Zika resources for state and local health departments include plans, guidance documents, and communication materials in Spanish and English.

CDC’s Zika Virus Healthcare Providers webpage provides a number of resources, including clinical guidance, information about the US Zika Preganancy Registry, and tools for healthcare providers.

CDC has a webpage with targeted information for specific groups, including pregnant women, mosquito control professionals, and parents.

Find and share tips for mosquito control via the Public Health Matters blog, “Mosquito Control Awareness Week: Say Goodbye to Mosquitoes at Home.”