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Government/Politics

Abbott’s Summer Plans: Fighting Mosquitoes And Funding Zika Virus Research

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Office of the Governor
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Gov. Greg Abbott on federal Zika conference call

One of the biggest concerns among gulf-state governors, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, is how to help local communities fund the expensive method of mosquito-control to help prevent the spread of the Zika virus this summer.
 
One of Abbott’s biggest concerns this summer is determining how much it will cost local cities and counties to begin a large-scale mosquito abatement program and whether federal funds will be available. 

 
 

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Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of Infectious Disease and Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston

Dr. Peter Hotez is an expert on mosquito-borne illness and tropical disease at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.  He says the cost of fighting mosquitos that spread diseases like the West Nile Virus is much different than fighting the mosquito that spreads Zika, both in approach and in cost.

 
“You know those of us who live in affected areas of Texas of West Nile are familiar with mosquito trucks passing by in the evening. That approach does not work for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is specifically adapted to humans, so it means going house to house to house and we’ve never done that on the Gulf Coast," Hotez says.
 
The process for containing the mosquito will be extremely labor-intensive and costly this summer.
 

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Credit Wiki Commons
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The other concern for state officials is whether a vaccine will be available this year, especially for pregnant women.  Hotez, who has helped develop vaccines for other tropical diseases, doesn’t see the release of a Zika vaccine happening anytime soon.

 
“The people who we really want to protect from this virus are women who are pregnant or about to become pregnant, and from a regulatory prospective, the FDA says that’s about the highest bar there is.  So we’re going to be a couple years away I’m afraid," Hotez explains.
 
And with much of Texas appearing like a sponge laying in a petri dish of water sitting in the hot sun, Gov. Abbott for now  is urging all Texans to maintain personal protection against mosquito bites while outside.