Hardly a week goes by without officials reporting another new case of the Zika virus in Florida. While all of the cases in Florida have so far been travel-related, concerns about the virus spreading are real.
With the summer mosquito season fast approaching, Florida simply can’t afford to take this situation lightly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent recommendation that women who are pregnant should not travel to areas with Zika is a sobering reminder that any outbreak could have a devastating impact on Florida residents and the state’s tourism industry.
The good news is that effective solutions are available to stop Zika transmitting mosquitoes. New technology developed by Oxitec helps ensure the invasive Aedes aegypti mosquitos’ offspring don’t mature to adulthood. In fact, in communities where Oxitec’s technology has been deployed, there has been a 90 percent reduction in mosquitos that carry Zika, dengue and other deadly diseases.
In early March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a preliminary finding of “no significant impact” on the environment for an Oxitec pilot project in Key Haven, Florida. Before issuing their finding, the inter-agency review considered extensive trials performed in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands since 2009, as well as data from safety studies, site inspections and independent experts.
The facts are clear – there is no vaccine against Zika, and no cure for the associated microcephaly that results in an underdeveloped brain in newborns. Disrupting the transmission of this disease is vital.
At the Florida Chamber of Commerce, we believe a field trial in the Florida Keys is an important step in reducing that risk. The time to act is now. The health and safety of Floridians, our visitors and our quality of life deserve no less.
David Hart, Executive Vice President, Florida Chamber of Commerce
Published in the Miami Herald, May 7, 2016