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School & Program Updates

Michigan Professor Addresses Zika and Recent Travel Advisory for Miami Issued by CDC

UM SPH professor of epidemiology Dr. Emily Toth Martin weighs in on the CDC’s recent travel advisory recommending that pregnant women avoid the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, where there has been mosquito transmission of the Zika virus.

Emily Toth Martin
[Photo: Dr. Emily Toth Martin]

In an interview with Travel Weekly, Dr. Martin sheds light on the concerns surrounding the virus, assuaging some fears while also pointing out the real and potentially dangerous challenges in handling the spreading illness.

Dr. Martin points out that Aedes aegypti, the species of mosquito carrying the Zika virus, present some problems different from other species of the itch-inducing insects. For example, they are day-biters, making the mosquito-avoidance strategies of bed-nets and staying inside at dusk somewhat obsolete. They also thrive in urban environments, putting more people at risk that if they lived in less populated rural areas.

In addition to the unusual characteristics of the carriers, the virus itself presents its own obstacles to tracking and preventing its spread such as the two-week period between the contraction of the disease and the appearance of symptoms.

However, in spite of these challenges, Dr. Martin brings up that the CDC has dealt with mosquito-borne illnesses in the past, and already has effective strategies in place. The issue with implementing these strategies will be the funding, which will need to be drawn away from other less-immediate public health threats. As Dr. Martin puts it, “We’ll have to rob Peter to pay Paul.”

Overall, Dr. Martin presents a realistic yet hopeful view of how the Zika virus will affect the U.S., avoiding blanket statements advising against all travel for pregnant women, and saying instead that women should consult their doctors and make travel decisions on an informed and individual basis.

Read the interview transcript here: