Experts talk Zika threat and possible vaccines

Posted at 6:22 PM, Aug 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-02 18:29:27-04
Centers for Disease Control is now investigating a 15th Zika case that may have been caused by mosquitoes in South Florida. The CDC has dispatched additional staff to Florida following Governor Rick Scott's call for a federal emergency response team. Health officials believe these cases are concentrated in Wynwood, a small area in Miami-Dade county, just north of downtown. 
Pregnant woman are now urged to avoid the Wynwood area and are encouraged to get tested for the virus. 
While the fear of a Florida a Zika virus outbreak continues to grow, Sharon Isern a FGCU professor says it was only a matter of time. 
"I wasn't really surprised. Florida has the right mosquitoes for transmission," Isern said. "If you can eradicate the mosquitos themselves that are infected and you can treat those areas where suspected cases have been found, that is the only weapon we have in our arsenal to eradicate Zika."
Isern has been studying the Dungue virus, a virus closely related to zika that can also be contracted by mosquitoes, long before Zika made it to the states. 
"We had Zika in our laboratory for studying purposes before the first infections were reported in Brazil," she said.
Isern tells Four In Your Corner outbreaks in Florida are more likely to happen during wetter months, but believes the Zika virus could soon cease. 
"It may not take a foothold if it sort of follows the same pattern as dengue virus has followed in the past."
The biggest concern is found among pregnant women because the virus can cause certain birth defects like microcephaly, but Isern says your body eventually fights off the virus. 
"It's not like HIV in that you're infected for life and the virus stays with you," she said. "It's like the flu, your body clears it. If you're looking at having a child say five years from now, the virus should no longer be with you," she said. "There shouldn't be any complications associated with pregnancy at that point."
Florida is the first in the nation to have local transmission of the Zika Virus, but there are groups working on developing a vaccine. Isern says this is a long term solution that will help curb the problem.
"Immediately the vaccine is not going to help because it's going to take a while to get developed," she said. "In the short term, the best way to do is to prevent exposure to mosquitos."
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