While Congress plays, Zika preys
Sundresses, shorts, sunglasses and sandals is the uniform of Floridians in the summer. However now those in Miami-Dade, Broward and outlying counties are being advised, among other things, to wear long sleeves, use mosquito spray, avoid standing water and make sure windows have screens. Zika has hit Florida.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, July 28, 2016 that the FDA told Miami-Dade and Broward counties to stop blood donations due to four cases of Florida-bourne Zika being reported. Since then, an additional ten cases were reported on Monday, August 1st, bringing the total to 14 (1). These are the first cases of Zika in the United States which aren’t travel related. This isn’t particularly surprising since Zika was expected to hit Florida eventually, but what is troublesome is Congress left for vacation before approving a bill which would provide funding to combat the spread of Zika (1).
In February President Barack Obama requested $1.9 billion to fight the spread of Zika (1). In February The New York Times reported “money would go toward expanding programs that control mosquitoes, which transmit the virus, as well as research into vaccines and new public education programs, particularly for pregnant women, the president said in an interview on “CBS This Morning” ( 2). This began a bipartisan battle over the health of Americans and personal beliefs. The Democrats in Congress supported the bill but the Republicans countered with a $1.1 billion proposal which prevented funding from going to a group that partners with Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico, a territory which has been hard hit by the virus (1). Republicans placed personal beliefs over protecting the health of citizens.
This is bad news for the Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood which is ground zero for the Zika virus. The Florida Department of Health believes “active transmission of the Zika virus” is occurring within an area of approximately one square mile, most of which is in the Wynwood neighborhood (4). The advice people in the neighborhood are receiving to not be bitten by a mosquito is to get rid of standing water, wear long sleeves and stay indoors. This advice combined with the protocol for avoiding mosquito bites may seem simple but it doesn’t take into account Florida in the summer.
June 1st begins Hurricane Season or as Floridians call it “Rainy Season”. As a rule the weather pattern across the state calls for a thunderstorm at least once a day. Gutters fill, puddles form and standing water is everywhere. The average temperature for any area during the summer months is 90 plus degrees with a Real Feel of 100 plus (Accuweather’s forecast for Miami this past week was average temperatures in the 90’s with Real Feel temperatures from 103-106 degrees(5)). Heat and humidity combine to create a force which mosquitoes thrive in and the Zika virus survives in. Long sleeves and pants are not feasible with this type of weather.
Furthermore The Wall Street Journal has reported “The CDC said test results showed that spraying, removing standing water and other efforts had failed to kill off many of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes” (3). The positive aspect to the infection may be “ the Aedes aegypti has a short flight range of about 150 meters in its lifetime, meaning that if not many mosquitoes are infected, outbreaks can be quite limited” (3). The virus can be hard to get ahead of but if the CDC is able to contain and control the mosquito population in the Wynwood neighborhood the threat of the spread of Zika may be minimal.
To refuse to pass a bill which would protect citizens because of personal beliefs is negligent. A May 2015 Gallop Poll showed “ Half of Americans consider themselves "pro-choice" on abortion, surpassing the 44% who identify as "pro-life." This is the first time since 2008 that the pro-choice position has had a statistically significant lead in Americans' abortion views” (6). Public health should not be held hostage by theories and ideals which a majority does not hold to be reasonable. In cases such as Zika the shared fundamental belief of the right to access healthcare and prevent citizens from harm must take priority over a minority’s beliefs. Congress should take a break from their vacation, convene and address a public health issue which is preying on their citizens.
Burton,Thomas M. (2016, July 28). FDA Tells Two South Florida Counties to Stop Blood Donations Over Zika. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/fda-tells-two-south-florida-counties-to-stop-blood-donations-over-zika-1469729921.
Landler, Mark. ( 2016, February 8). Obama Asks Congress for 1.8 Billion to Combat Zika Virus. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/02/09/us/politics/obama-congress-funding-combat-zika-virus.
McKay, Betsy & Evans, Melanie. (2016, August 2). Officials Warn Pregnant Women to Avoid Miami Neighborhood Affected by Zika. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/florida-identifies-10-additional-zika-cases-in-miami-area-1470067897.
McKay, Betsy & McWhirter, Cameron. (2016,July 29). Four Zika Infections in Florida Likely First in U.S. From Mosquito Bites. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://wsj.com/articles/governor-says-four-zika-cases-likely-came-from-florida-mosquitoes-1469802894.
Miami Daily Weather Forecast. Accuweather. Retrieved from http://www.accuweather.com/en/us/miami-fl/33128/daily-weather-forecast/347936.
Saad, Lydia. ( 2015, May 29). Americans Choose “Pro Choice ” For the First Time in Seven Years. Gallop. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/183434/americfirst-time-seven-years.aspxans-choose-pro-choice-.