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  • The Latest News on Zika

    June brought new findings to light on the effects of Zika and talk of potential vaccines. Meanwhile, state governors are frustrated as Congress continues to squabble over Zika funding.

    WHO: Zika May Cause Neurological Problems in Thousands of Babies
    According to Reuters, the World Health Organization warned that nations with Zika infections should be on the lookout for infants with health problems other than microcephaly. Health issues could range widely and include “spasticity, seizures, irritability, feeding difficulties, eyesight problems, and severe brain abnormalities.”

    Baby Born in Florida With Zika-Related Microcephaly
    Florida’s health department announced the state’s first case of microcephaly related to Zika infection. The mother, originally from Haiti, contracted the virus in Haiti, and traveled to Florida to give birth. Florida Governor Rick Scott expressed sympathy for the mother and frustration with federal lawmakers, challenging Congress to “do their part” to fund Zika prevention and response.

    NYC: Over Half of Individuals With Zika Traveled to Dominican Republic
    According to New York City Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett, MD, more than half of residents testing positive for Zika—140 out of 233—had recently returned from the Dominican Republic. In addition, 20 cases originated in Puerto Rico, and Guyana was visited by 14 of the patients. Bassett noted that the “results should not be used to stigmatize any group, but to raise awareness.” Twenty-four of those infected were pregnant, and 2 individuals also were diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, but have recovered.

    Zika Vaccine Optimism ...
    Three vaccines are planned to begin clinical trial in humans in 2016. Inovio Pharmaceuticals, partnered with Korea-based GeneOne Life Science Inc, received approval to begin phase I trials in 40 participants for a genetically engineered vaccine, GLS-5700. Two other vaccines were developed by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in collaboration with scientists at Walter Reed Institute of Research and the University of Sao Paulo. Trials are expected to begin as early as this fall. The Department of Health & Human Services Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing also will begin working on a vaccine.

    … And Zika Vaccine Concerns
    Scientists are expressing concern that Zika vaccines in development may inadvertently lead to an increase in the number of cases of the autoimmune disease Guillain-Barré syndrome. Others say the DNA-based vaccines may also increase the risk of Dengue fever.

    Congress Continues to Delay Funding for Zika Response Efforts
    Members of Congress have yet to pass a bill to adequately fund Zika-related public health preparedness and research efforts. In the most recent squabble, senators from both parties, who had agreed on $1.1 billion in funding, came to a stalemate when Republican members inserted provisions in the final bill that were a dealbreaker for Democrats. The provisions would cut $540 million from the Affordable Care Act, restrict funding for Planned Parenthood and other clinics “providing contraceptive services related to fighting the Zika virus,” and reallocate an additional $107 million from Ebola virus programs. The inaction by Congress has frustrated some lawmakers and officials, particularly in southern states, who say that state funds alone can't meet the challenges of battling the spread of the virus.

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