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A Unified Effort: Working to Address Zika Virus

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By Judy Monroe, M.D.

Jude Monroe, President & CEO of the CDC Foundation

Judy Monroe, President & CEO of the CDC Foundation

We’ve all seen the alarming stories recently about the Zika virus outbreak in many countries and territories in the Americas, the likelihood that the virus will continue to spread to new areas, and the potentially serious implications for pregnant women and their unborn children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been working closely with its U.S. and international partners on the response.

In a TIME interview last week, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden discussed Zika virus and CDC’s response efforts. Around 500 CDC staff are hard at work with domestic and international partners to search out answers to many questions.

For most people, Zika virus causes no more than mild illness. For pregnant women, however, Zika poses a more serious threat. Evidence suggests Zika virus can spread from a pregnant woman to her baby. That infection may be linked to microcephaly, a debilitating birth defect where babies are born with much smaller heads than normal and with brains that may not have properly developed.

Arlete Oliveira da Silva dos Santos sits in her house in the village of Brasileirinho, about 40 kilometers east of the city of Manaus, Brazil. Dos Santos fell ill with malaria when she was pregnant with her third child.

Arlete Oliveira da Silva dos Santos sits in her house in the village of Brasileirinho, about 40 kilometers east of the city of Manaus, Brazil. Dos Santos fell ill with malaria when she was pregnant with her third child.

CDC has some of the world’s leading experts both in diseases spread by mosquitoes and in birth defects. These experts are working 24/7 to address the Zika outbreak in several critical ways, from issuing travel notices to providing guidance for healthcare providers. Other measures include working with partners on diagnostic tests, treatments and potential vaccines for Zika as well as providing expert guidance on mosquito control solutions. To accelerate this work, CDC requested in February that the CDC Foundation activate our two emergency response funds—the Global Disaster Response Fund and the U.S. Emergency Response Fund.

While CDC has government funding to support most needs, CDC does not have funding needed to meet all immediate response needs—and that’s where the CDC Foundation disaster response funds provide flexible essential resources. Your support will assist in a variety of ways, such as enhancing CDC’s ability to broadly alert healthcare providers and the public about Zika; funding Zika prevention kits with educational materials for pregnant women in Puerto Rico and other high-risk areas; protecting travelers with guidance and information; supporting state health laboratories with diagnostic tests; and detecting and reporting cases to help prevent further spread.

84897326“This (Zika) is another example of why it’s so important for us to be engaged and involved in health threats around the world,” said Dr. Frieden. “It’s the right thing to do, it’s also the best way to keep Americans safe.”

The CDC Foundation’s disaster response funds enable CDC to respond faster to the changing and unanticipated nature of infectious disease outbreaks. In the past, these funds have proved to be crucial for CDC in broadening their swift response to many emergency situations, most recently in the West Africa Ebola outbreak.

Please join forces with us to help CDC control the Zika outbreak. All contributions to the CDC Foundation’s Global Disaster Response Fund and U.S. Emergency Response Fund will help CDC fight immediate health threats and respond to future outbreaks and emergencies.

Judy Monroe, M.D., is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.

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