Florida Now Ready to Test Mosquitoes for Zika Virus

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By: Associated Press
May 3, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida Department of Agriculture will begin testing mosquitoes for the Zika virus.

Commissioner Adam Putnam announced Tuesday that a department laboratory in Kissimmee is now equipped to test for the virus.

The same laboratory is used to test for animal diseases. The department is working with mosquito control districts to distribute traps and train them on how to submit samples.

Department spokeswoman Jennifer Meale said testing would begin within two weeks.

Florida leads the nation with 102 confirmed cases of the disease.

Zika has become epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean. The virus is mainly spread through mosquito bites and causes mild illness or no symptoms in most people. But it can cause a severe birth defect in which babies are born with abnormally small heads.

News Release: Sen. Bill Nelson's Office
April 12, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – One day after officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the Zika virus was “scarier than we initially thought,” Congress approved legislation to speed up the development of vaccines and treatments to help curb the spread of the virus.

The House today approved legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and others to add the Zika virus to the Food and Drug Administration’s Tropical Disease Priority Review Voucher Program, creating an incentive for drug makers to accelerate their search for a cure. The legislation, approved by the Senate last month, now heads to the president’s desk to be signed in to law.

“The most effective way to stop the spread of this virus is to find a cure,” Nelson said. “This legislation will help encourage drug companies to devote the resources needed to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.”

Adding the Zika virus to the FDA’s priority list creates an incentive for drug makers to dedicate the time and money needed to find a cure by offering companies that develop a treatment a voucher to expedite the FDA approval process of any other drug the company chooses.

Once awarded, a company can use a fast-track voucher to cut the time it takes the FDA to approve another drug of its choice from ten months to six, or sell it to another drug maker. In 2014, a fast-track voucher reportedly sold for $125 million.

In addition to filing the fast-track legislation Congress approved today, Nelson has repeatedly urged his congressional colleagues to grant the president’s request for an additional $1.9 billion to fight the virus, and was among the first to call on President Obama to appoint a Zika czar to coordinate the federal government’s overall response to the virus.

Florida currently leads the nation in reported cases of the virus with 85.

By: Associated Press
April, 11 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Top health officials say the more they learn about Zika, the scarier the virus appears and they still need more money to fight the mosquitoes that spread it -- and for research into vaccines and treatments.

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health says he's "not an alarmist," but he cites recent discoveries about how destructive Zika appears to be to fetal brains. There also are reports of rare neurologic problems in adults, too.

The Obama administration is using some leftover money from the Ebola fight to pay for Zika research but that's just a fraction of the $1.9 billion it sought from Congress.

Fauci says the $589 million now available is a "temporary stopgap" and it's "not enough for us to get the job done."

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