Looking to study diseases and the spread of the latest outbreak of the Zika Virus. Look no further than the Florida institution in Ft. Myers. Florida Gulf Coast University had been given sizable grants and funding ($3.5 million to be exact) to research the dengue virus known as Zika. Florida Gulf Coast University Professors Sharon Isern and Scott Michael are virologists in the school’s department of biological sciences, with more than a decade of specialty in infectious diseases. Last year, the duo patented a dengue vaccine currently in its testing phase. Michael says even the best efforts to stunt the spread of the disease aren’t enough to account for human behaviors which may create greater exposure.
“We don’t know enough about Zika to come up with a great plan,” he says. “What we’re relying on is mosquito control, but that’s our only option. But the virus is also transmitted sexually, so are students going to stop having sex? Even the CDC and Florida State Department of Health are changing their stories on how to think about it as research gets done.”
As Florida officials work to reduce mosquito populations throughout Miami and surrounding counties, federal officials continue to spar over funding to contain the outbreak. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services authorized a funding reallocation of $81 million to fund continuing research and vaccine development, but estimates suggest that more than $1.5 billion will be needed to manage a total number of infections exceeding 1,800 patients nationwide, with the potential for massive spreading.
“I’m going to be extremely disappointed if they wait to take action until American babies are infected,” says Michael.
Cited: EducationDive, http://www.educationdive.com/news/florida-universities-take-lead-on-zika-research-and-awareness/424325/
Serena Ostrowsky, M.Ed.