HHS ups prevention efforts as Zika confirmed in Florida

As Zika finds its way into the mainland U.S., with the infection having been found in Miami, Florida, HHS is working toward reducing the time needed to diagnose patients with recent Zika infections. With a $5.1 million award to InBios International, Inc,, HHS is supporting the development of a serological test, which detects a Zika virus-specific Immonoglobulin M (IgM), antibodies produced by the body’s immune response to the virus.

Faster Zika testing under development

Currently, the only serological test available was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is being used under emergency use authorization issued by the FDA. The test requires two to three days before results are available. Providing a faster, easier, and commercially available test to clinical laboratories would increase Zika testing capacity significantly. The funding occurs under a two-year contract with the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). The funding supports refinement of the test’s design, manufacturing preparations, and clinical studies. The agreement can be extended to fund additional work on the test through 2021 and for total funding of approximately $9.5 million.

The FDA is working closely with companies that are making blood screening tests available under an Investigational New Drug application (IND) to ensure that they are prepared to expand testing as needed. Blood collection establishments in the U.S. may choose now or in the future to participate in testing under IND, even if mosquito-borne Zika transmission has not been confirmed locally.

Zika confirmed in Florida

Florida public health officials have found persistent mosquito populations and additional Zika infections in a Miami neighborhood where several Zika infections were previously confirmed. Information suggests a continued risk of active transmission of Zika virus in the area. Florida health officials and the CDC are issuing travel advisories, testing, and other recommendations for those who traveled to or lived in the designated areas of Florida on or after June 15, 2016, the earliest known date of a confirmed Zika infection in Florida. Among other recommendations, the CDC advises that pregnant women not travel to the identified area and that pregnant women and their partners living in the area should consistently follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika. Male and female sexual partners of pregnant women who live in or who have traveled to the area should consistently and correctly use a barrier method during sex or abstain from sex for the duration of the pregnancy.

To protect from mosquito bites, individuals including pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant should apply insect repellant containing DEET to uncovered skin, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, use or repair screens on windows and doors, use air conditioning when available, and remove standing water where mosquitoes lay eggs.