Is the United States Prepared for a Major Zika Virus Outbreak?
Zika virus has emerged as a global public health crisis with active transmission in the Americas and Caribbean. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), and recently WHO reported there is a scientific consensus that Zika is a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). In the U.S. the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its emergency operations center at its highest capacity. President Obama requested $1.86 billion in emergency funding. Shamefully, Congress has yet to appropriate the funding needed for Zika preparedness, and the President has had to reallocate Ebola funding for Zika prevention.
Although none of the continental states has reported local mosquito-borne transmission to date, federal authorities are amplifying the potential for Zika to affect national security. The virus already severely threatens Puerto Rico. Travelers visiting or returning to the U.S. could escalate the spread of Zika via sexual transmission. The virus may spread across a majority of states including large cities where Aedes species mosquitos are active. Is the U.S. prepared for Zika? America's highly functioning health system will help, but signs of unpreparedness remain due to insufficient resources and variable legal authorities.