Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) alongside Mayor Pete Saenz and the City of Laredo recently announced the building of a new office for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Laredo. Three CDC-contracted public health professionals are also to be attached to the project.
Cuellar requested support for the building of this office. He also requested that Caduceus Healthcare hire contracted public health professionals to work alongside the City of Laredo Health Department. They will work alongside other health agencies along the South Texas border. The purpose of this office is to focus on combating the Zika virus.
“Currently, outbreaks are occurring in many countries and territories, including Mexico, and public health officials warn that the virus may make its way to U.S. border states this summer, which is why I personally invited the CDC to come to Laredo to monitor the situation and work with the City of Laredo to create detection and response plans for our community. I thank the CDC, Mayor Saenz and the City of Laredo Health Department for their support towards this mission,” said Cuellar.
The Zika virus is a known public health issue that has been infecting many people in Latin American countries. Mexico is one of them. Similar to the West Nile virus, Zika is generally transmitted through infected mosquitoes. Currently, there has not been any detection of domestic mosquitoes in the US that are carrying the virus. Also, there have not been any reported cases in Laredo or Webb County.
The professionals from Caduceus Healthcare will be placed in Laredo to help support and advise the City of Laredo Health Department on effective strategies to enhance surveillance and detection of the virus in the border region.
The CDC will also work with the local authorities to provide technical monitoring of the public health team to enhance a response in the event that an outbreak of the virus were to occur.
The current partnership of American and Mexican universities will continue researching the virus. The CDC and the City of Laredo Health Department with also be cooperating. They will also be expanding their partnerships and research in order to create a better scope of surveillance and testing.
The University of Arizona and Texas Tech University have partnered with the CDC in creating a smartphone app that can be used for public self-reporting of signs and symptoms of the Zika virus.
“Information is empowering, especially when it comes to issues of health and prevention of viruses and diseases. This virus, while relatively mild and preventable, does pose a threat given not only our geographical location, but also, the flow of international travelers through our community,” said Saenz.
The federal action on the Zika virus has been a hot topic in congress. However, Congress has not acted thoroughly on the matter. Much of the responses that have arrived come at the whim of organizations in the executive branch. As the mayor stated, the symptoms of the virus are not extremely severe, but many find the government’s slow reaction to this seemingly simple dilemma to be frustrating.. Some advocate balanced spending, but the virus is a public health issue, and even though an immediate danger may not be present, local and federal authorities should definitely be prepared. The mosquitoes are not recognizing national borders as the virus has affected several countries. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not funded or prepared to rapidly respond to the damages of the natural disaster, leaving many people to suffer. Luckily, cooperation between universities, international agencies, and local authorities have given the border region an effective chance of fighting the virus.