By Robert Herriman
Local transmission of Zika virus is in Florida and today, Governor Rick Scott announced that the Florida Department of Health puts the tally at 36 with five individuals connected to the Miami Beach area.
In Tampa, experts from the University of South Florida (USF) along with Representatives Kathy Castor and David Jolly and other local leaders met for a half-day conference titled "Zika at Our Doorstep: An International Public Health Conversation."
A myriad of issues were addressed to include funding for research into prevention, diagnostics and vaccines.
Rep. Jolly said, "The Florida delegation understands this impacts us more than other states. So as a delegation, they need to impress upon leadership and the broader Congress to actually pass the (funding) package We still don't know everything we need to know about Zika, the resources we need to control it and how to prevent it."
Rep Castor spoke on similar lines, "When you have a public health crisis, it's very important you do everything you can up front to prevent it. You develop diagnostic tests, vaccine, you educate the community."
Charles J. Lockwood, MD, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine and a renowned obsetrician compares the Zika threat to polio: "As an obstetrician, maybe I'm a little biased, but it is absolutely critical that we have funding to improve our mosquito abatement strategy, to do a better job with surveillance and to develop a vaccine as soon as possible. The parallel with polio is apt and one of the reasons why the National Foundation for the March of Dimes has jumped on Zika like no other organization."
"We must have funding; this is a national emergency," Lockwood said.
Also speaking was Douglas Holt, MD, director of Infectious Disease and International Medicine Division, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine who said, "We're in for a tough fight. Zika represents a perfect storm. It's a virus that is sneaky; a wolf in sheep's clothing. It comes in and most people don't even know they're sick. In addition to this it is unprecedented that we have a mosquito virus that also causes birth defects and is sexually transmitted."
Prior to the conference, Ms. Castor and Mr Jolly toured the USF insectary and talked to research staff.