Vermont Health Department Seeks Funding To Educate Vermonters About Zika
The Vermont Health Department is seeking a federal grant to help educate the public about the risks associated with the Zika virus. Health officials stress that it's very unlikely that mosquitos in Vermont will transmit the virus.
Zika is a mosquito-borne disease that's been linked to serious birth defects in some babies whose mothers contracted the virus while they were pregnant.
The health department reported the first case of Zika in the state in April; a Vermonter had contracted the virus after traveling to an area affected by Zika.
This particular strain of mosquito is common in many parts of South America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Patsy Kelso, Vermont's state epidemiologist, is applying for a special grant from the Centers for Disease Control. Kelso wants to use the money to make sure that Vermonters fully understand the issues associated with the Zika virus.
"We need to have plans in place. Mostly we need to be educating the public, making sure they're aware of the potential risks that are now in well over 30 countries and territories,” she says.
"We need to be educating the public, making sure they're aware of the potential risks that are now in well over 30 countries and territories." - Patsy Kelso, state epidemiologist
Kelso says the type of mosquito that spreads the Zika virus is not common in Vermont and there's little chance of contracting the disease here.
"In Vermont, we don't expect to have sustained local transmission of Zika virus because … they're likely in very small numbers, not in large enough populations that can survive through Vermont winters and cause ongoing transmission of Zika virus,” Kelso says.
While these mosquitos are not prevalent in Vermont, Kelso says they can be found in a number of southern states, and that this situation needs to be monitored.
Meanwhile, emergency funding to fight the Zika virus is at the center of a debate in Congress.
The question is whether an emergency appropriation should be made or if the funding should take place as part of the normal appropriations process.
"We have to have money to deal with Zika, and we should be doing it to be maximizing the impact of eradicating or minimizing the threat." - Rep. Peter Welch
Congressman Peter Welch says the Zika virus is "a major health menace" that needs to be addressed immediately.
“We have to have money to deal with Zika,” Welch says, “and we should be doing it to be maximizing the impact of eradicating or minimizing the threat.”
And Welch says a decision to appropriate $5 billion in emergency funds to fight Ebola in 2014 shows how important it is to act quickly on critical health issues.
"That's at bay now, and that is another indication where if you apply resources and effort in a timely way you can actually get on top of the disease."
Welch is hopeful that Congress will act on an emergency Zika response plan by the end of the month.