The Cable

U.S. Short-Handed on Mosquito Traps as Summer and Mosquitoes Arrive

High demand has the United States short on traps needed to slow Zika's spread.

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Memorial Day weekend marks the start of summer: pools, the beach, barbecues, and mosquitoes. The looming threat of Zika makes the last one especially troubling, as officials believe it’s only a matter of time before the virus is transmitted in the United States. And Florida, a state where the disease could thrive, is shorthanded when it comes to fighting it.

The Sunshine State has received 120 of the more than 300 special traps it has ordered to help detect the Zika virus in mosquitoes, which transmit the disease; it can also be transmitted sexually. Nationally, almost 1,950 orders from governments and private businesses are backlogged, according to The Associated Press.

That’s because the BG-Sentinel traps used to kill mosquitoes are in heavy demand as the threat from Zika grows. The virus has been linked both to microcephaly in newborns and Guillain-Barré, a condition that causes paralysis in adults. The virus has spread to Europe and Australia, and earlier cases of it have been reported across Africa and the Indian subcontinent, but the epicenter of the outbreak is Brazil.

On Friday, 125 prominent scientists sent a letter to World Health Organization Director Margaret Chan asking that the Summer Olympics, set to be held in Rio, be moved due to Zika concerns.

As of May 25, the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data available, there have been 591 reported Zika cases in the United States. There has been one Guillain-Barré syndrome case. All of those carrying the virus acquired it while traveling abroad, and not in the United States.

The outbreak is worse in U.S. territories, especially Puerto Rico, where the CDC estimates 20 percent of the island’s residents will catch the bug. There are 939 cases across all territories, almost all — 935 — contracted in American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There have been five Guillain-Barré cases.

President Barack Obama has asked Congress to devote $1.9 billion to fund anti-Zika efforts. The Senate has approved a measure that provides $1.1 billion to fight Zika. The House has approved $622 million to do the same. Lawmakers are negotiating the final amount that would be sent to the White House for approval, but that won’t happen until they come back to Washington in early June.

Meanwhile, warnings from CDC officials are growing more urgent.

“This is the cockroach of mosquitoes,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said Thursday. “It lives indoors and out, bites in the day and in the night. The eggs can last more than a year, and they can hatch in a drop of water.… When they take a blood meal, they’ll bite four or five people at once, so they’re capable of rapidly spreading infection.”

Photo credit: JOE RAEDLE/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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