Despite assurances from officials that local transmission of the Zika virus is unlikely in Indiana, the Indiana Department of Health is set to receive millions of dollars from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with hopes of preventing the virus.
The CDC is sending $3.6 million Indiana’s way so the state’s health department can better monitor Zika and aid in prevention efforts.
There have been 27 recorded cases of the virus in Indiana, all of them travel-related. State public health veterinarian Jennifer Brown said because the mosquito that most often carries the virus isn’t native to the state, the odds of local transmission and spread are very low.
However, Brown said just because most cases are contracted outside the state doesn’t mean the virus should be ignored.
She said the money will partly go to fund expanded surveillance and testing of both mosquitoes and people and “to make sure that our systems for surveillance of human cases and mosquitos and lab testing and informational technology are as good as they can possibly be.”
Brown said the prevention efforts will spill over into other areas of public health, such as improvements to the state’s Birth Defects and Problems Registry. More than half the money will go to programs that will monitor and study microcephaly. (Zika is asymptomatic in 80 percent of cases, but has devastating effects on unborn children. Microcephaly—a smaller-than-usual head—has been linked to the disease.)
“Those general improvements to the registry will benefit not just microcephaly surveillance, but also surveillance of other birth defects that are observed in Indiana,” Brown said.
Purdue University medical etymologist Catherine Hill said in epidemiology, information is always a valuable weapon.
“That’s information that we don’t have right now,” she said. “And we desperately need this epidemiological data that we just don’t have, because we’ve never had Zika before.”
More mosquito data might also help public health officials better understand aspects of another mosquito-borne disease: West Nile Virus. Hill said that’s a welcome development.
“We’ve probably seen an erosion of funding and an erosion of support at our local and county health departments,” Hill said of mosquito-surveillance programs.
The money, which will be distributed over five years, will also fund awareness and public health preparedness campaigns