CDC Looks Back on “Significant Contributions” to Fight Against Zika in 2016

Agency details complex epidemic response

Seventy years after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was founded to fight mosquitoes that carried malaria, the agency has found itself in combat with another mosquito-borne illness, Zika virus. The CDC activated its Emergency Operations Center to fight Zika on January 22, 2016, after a widespread virus outbreak in the Americas was linked to a large increase in the number of babies born with microcephaly. Now, as the emergency response approaches one year, an article in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report has highlighted 10 critical contributions that the CDC made toward the fight against Zika virus in 2016.

These contributions include:

  • Issuing travel guidance to warn pregnant women not to travel to areas with Zika
  • Publishing clinical guidance for the care of pregnant women, their fetuses, and infants
  • Identifying the sexual transmission of Zika virus
  • Monitoring blood safety and availability
  • Developing and distributing laboratory test kits and reagents
  • Establishing a causal link between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and microcephaly and serious brain defects
  • Gathering and analyzing Zika pregnancy surveillance data to understand the magnitude of the risk and the full range of possible health effects for fetuses and infants after infection during pregnancy
  • Improving access to a range of voluntary, reversible contraceptive methods to reduce unintended pregnancies as a strategy to lessen the impact of Zika virus infection
  • Implementing mosquito-control strategies and building the evidence base for best practices
  • Improving the understanding of the link between neurological conditions (e.g., Guillain–Barré syndrome) and Zika virus infection

“Fighting Zika is the most complex epidemic response [the] CDC has taken on, requiring expertise ranging from pregnancy and birth defects to mosquito control, from laboratory science to travel policy, from virology to communication science,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “CDC experts in every field will continue to protect women and their families from the devastating complications of this threat.”

The CDC’s top priority in its Zika response is to protect pregnant women. To do that, the agency’s efforts continue to focus on:

  • Preventing the mosquito-borne spread of Zika virus through mosquito control and personal protective measures
  • Collaborating to accelerate vaccine development
  • Developing improved diagnostic testing
  • Improving contraceptive access to reduce unintended pregnancies
  • Improving the understanding of long-term outcomes for infants exposed to Zika virus infection during pregnancy

“Zika virus remains a serious threat to public health, and focused efforts on these key priorities will help advance the fight against Zika,” the CDC said.

Source: CDC; December 30, 2016.