Dallas County Leader Sounds Alarm Over Lack of Zika Funding

Zika research and mosquito control reduced

Dallas County's top elected official sounded an alarm Thursday over Zika virus funding slashed by the U.S. Congress from the President's original request months ago.

The U.S. House Thursday night approved $622 million to fight Zika, while the U.S. Senate earlier this week approved $1.1 billion.

President Barack Obama in February requested $1.9 billion to fund vaccine research and help health officials prepare the United States for the likely arrival of Zika infected mosquitoes this year.

"I think that people should be alarmed that Congress is failing to act," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.

Information from the White House shows the type of mosquitoes known to carry Zika are now expected to spread well north of Texas from the south this summer. And a second variety, likely to be present in Texas, is now known to be a possible Zika carrier, too.

There are still a lot of questions about the Zika virus that scientists are trying to answer. Dr. Seema Yasmin, medical expert with The Dallas Morning News, has been following this very closely.

The main Zika virus threat is birth defects for babies born to mothers infected with the disease. But Jenkins said Zika has also now been linked to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a nerve disease that can affect anyone.

"It's disconcerting that every time a new scientific study comes out about the Zika outbreak, it's more bad news. That's why we need Congress to go back and fully fund the Zika fight," Jenkins said.

Without the extra federal money, Dallas County has arranged for extra mosquito spraying this year and launched a preparedness campaign to warn residents.

Thursday, Dallas County reported the first 2016 positive tests for mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus. No human West Nile cases have been reported in 2016.

In 2012, 20 Dallas County residents died of West Nile virus and 197 other people contracted serious cases of that disease.

The Culex mosquitoes associated with West Nile are more active at dawn and dusk.

The Aedes mosquito breeds associated with Zika virus are active around the clock and are more likely to be found around homes and buildings in urban areas. So far, the Dallas County human cases of Zika virus have all been connected with people who traveled to areas of the world where the virus is already present in mosquitoes. Officials believe it is only a matter of time before Zika carrying mosquitoes are found in North Texas.

"You've got a role to play as well and that's to make sure you wear bug spray when you go outside and drain standing water," Jenkins said.

Zika can also be transmitted by infected men through sexual contact.

How to Protect Yourself From Mosquito Bites
  • Dress in long sleeves, pants when outside: For extra protection, spray thin clothing with repellent.
  • DEET: Make sure this ingredient is in your insect repellent.
  • Drain standing water in your yard and neighborhood: Mosquitoes can develop in any water stagnant for more than three days.

It has been recommended in the past that to avoid mosquito bites you should avoid being outdoors during Dusk and Dawn (the 4 Ds). While this is true for mosquitoes that commonly carry the West Nile virus, other types of mosquitoes that are more likely to carry Zika, dengue and chikungunya are active during the day. When outdoors, no matter what time of day, adjust your dress accordingly and wear insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus as your first line of defense against insect bites.

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