GAO: Improvements Needed to Fight Zika Virus Threat
WESLACO – A government watchdog group report said the federal government needs to do more to slow the spread of the Zika virus.
The Zika virus hit Florida and South Texas in 2016. Brownsville is one of two areas where the threat became very real.
Dr. Timothy Persons , chief scientist at the Government Accountability Office, said they’ve learned a lot about the disease since then.
“We know more from a medical perspective about Zika. We know now what its case definition is,” he said. “In other words, when you go to a clinic, the doctor can apply a criteria and say, ‘Yes, that’s Zika’ versus, ‘that’s flu or some other type of disease.’”
Dr. Persons said some people who have Zika will never know they’re carrying the virus.
“The biggest challenge is that four in five people may have the virus in their bloodstream, but they don’t know that they have the virus,” he said.
The physician said it’s imperative the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention develop a better and easier way to test for Zika.
“We need to be more prepared and I mean this in a whole of government sense… at the federal, state and local levels,” he said. “We also need better data, in terms of not only where the disease is going on, but also in the case of mosquito-borne diseases.”
Dr. Persons said it will help keep communities safer from the threat of Zika.
Currently, the only way to test for Zika is by making an appointment at your doctor’s office.
The CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are working with manufacturers on creating an at-home test similar to a pregnancy test.