A bill cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to encourage the timely development of a Zika virus vaccine and treatment advanced Wednesday in the Senate.
The legislation passed out of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and now awaits action in the full Senate.
“When public health threats like Zika are no more than a plane ride away, we must make every effort to respond quickly to prevent the spread of illness,” said Brown. “By providing an incentive to companies who act quickly to develop vaccines or treatments for Zika, we will be better equipped to combat this disease and take the steps necessary to contain it and care for those who’ve come in contact with the virus. My bill will add Zika to the list of diseases eligible for an FDA priority review voucher, encouraging companies to invest important resources toward Zika prevention and response efforts.”
Recently both area health departments – the Scioto County Health Department and the Portsmouth Health Department – issued a joint announcement that, though there is no vaccination available for zika virus, there are precautions to prevent all mosquito bites.
Individuals should use insect repellants including DEET. Repellants with DEET can be safely used on children ages two months and older. All insect repellants approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including DEET, can be used by pregnant and lactating women.
Brown’s bill, introduced in February, would add Zika to a key U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) program called the Priority Review Voucher Program, which encourages the development of treatments for neglected tropical diseases. Brown was instrumental in creating the Priority Review Voucher Program, which was established in 2007 after an amendment offered by Brown and his colleague Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) was included in the FDA Amendments Act of 2007.
Last week, Brown called on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund President Obama’s $1.9 billion emergency supplemental request to combat the Zika virus.
Brown also joined Senate Democrats to urge President Obama to take aggressive actions to address the spread of Zika and prevent outbreaks in the United States.
According to a joint news release from the two area health departments, the zika virus is primarily transmitted through a mosquito bite. There is no indication that it can be spread through casual contact. Of the individuals infected with the virus, 80 percent do not exhibit any symptoms.
When symptoms occur, they are often flu like in nature and can last from several days to a week. These symptoms can include fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis or red eye and headache. Hospitalization due to severe symptoms is uncommon.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.