NIH Official Warns that Zika Virus Could “Hang Around” for 2 Years

Zika mosquitoes
Science & Medicine

A National Institutes of Health (NIH) official says the end of the Zika virus could still be a year or 2 away, and that Gulf Coast states, besides Florida, are most vulnerable to the spread of the disease.

Anthony Fauci, the director the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC’s “This Week”:

“I would not be surprised if we see cases in Texas and Louisiana, particularly now where you have the situation with flooding in Louisiana. There are going to be a lot of problems getting rid of standing water.” [1]

Parts of Louisiana have been devastated by massive flooding over the past 2 weeks. As of August 22, 60,700 homes were reported to be damaged or destroyed throughout the state. The mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus breed in standing water. [2]

So far, mosquito-borne Zika cases have been found in 2 Miami-Dade County locations: Miami Beach, and the Wynwood neighborhood. They are the first locations on the U.S. mainland where health officials determined that mosquitoes were transmitting the disease. [1]

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) extended its travel advisory for pregnant women and their partners from Wynwood to the area of Miami Beach known for its nightclubs, pedestrian thoroughfares, and beaches. [3]

Zika is a major concern for pregnant women, because it can cause a rare birth defect called microcephaly, in which a baby is born with an abnormally small brain and skull.

According to Fauci, the best way to halt the spread of the Zika virus is through mosquito control. He said:

“With our experience with other similar viruses like dengue, this is something that could hang around for a year or two. Hopefully, we get to a point where we could suppress it so that we won’t have any risk of it.”

However, some of the methods of controlling mosquitoes has Floridians worried. Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a trial of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes that are designed to so that their offspring die before they can reproduce. The insects would be released in the Florida Keys.

Additionally, scientists are warning that naled, the insecticide being sprayed over Miami, may be more dangerous than the Zika virus. Long-term exposure to the neurotoxin has been shown to have serious health effects in children and infants, even at low levels. Also, naled can be fatal to bees, butterflies, and other wildlife.

Frighteningly, some studies suggest that naled may have neurological and developmental side effects on human fetuses, including microcephaly.


[1] The Washington Post

[2] ABC News

[3] The Associated Press