On Feb. 1, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. At the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CDC Foundation activated its Emergency Response Fund to aid in CDC’s response to Zika.
Zika, which spreads through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito and through sexual contact, first emerged in the Western Hemisphere in the spring of 2015 in Brazil. The virus then spread throughout much of Latin America, the Caribbean and U.S. territories. In the United States and territories, more than 43,000 people as of early 2019 had tested positive for Zika.
Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 in Uganda. Many people infected with Zika virus don’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. However for pregnant women, risks are greater. Today we know that Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus and that infection during pregnancy can cause certain types of serious birth defects. At present, there is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
As Zika evolved and spread during the 2015–2017 outbreak, the CDC Foundation helped CDC meet urgent needs that required philanthropic and private sector support to address government funding gaps or when government funds were not quickly accessible for the Zika response. In the CDC Foundation response with CDC, individuals and organizations supported a wide variety of efforts, such as:
- Developed a large-scale communications campaign, Detén el Zika, to help empower pregnant women in and U.S. territories, their families and communities to take actions to stop Zika from spreading.
- Provided a full range of reversible contraception to women in Puerto Rico wanting to delay or avoid pregnancy during the Zika outbreak through the Zika Contraception Access Network.
- Built capacity and strengthened diagnostic capabilities around insecticide-resistance and innovative approaches to advance vector/mosquito control.
- Responded to emerging needs as they arose with swift, timely support.
While the height of the Zika outbreak in U.S. territories has passed, Zika continues to pose significant risks based on its ability to cause serious birth defects. The CDC Foundation will continue to work with CDC as additional needs are identified that require external engagement and support.