Muna: Funds can help CDC discover vaccine vs Zika


Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Esther L. Muna believes that providing the Center for Disease Control and Prevention more funding would help them develop a vaccine against the Zika virus.

The CDC, however, could not get additional funding to further develop the vaccine with the U.S. Congress saying that Zika is a global problem. “If CDC has additional funding, they can do that [develop a vaccine].”

“The National Institutes of Health they have geniuses and doctors that could try to do this. I understand that Congress said Zika is a global problem and not only in the U.S. But it has reached the U.S.,” added Muna, in an earlier interview by the Saipan Tribune.

Acting governor Victor B. Hocog signed last Friday a proclamation declaring October as Fight The Bite! Awareness Month to keep the community informed of Zika, an arboviral disease passed on by mosquitoes like dengue and chikungunya.

“CDC is working on a vaccine. Working on things that could really prevent it. If there’s enough funding, they could actually cure it. The point is, if you want something done, give more money.”

“The bottom line now is it has become global and we don’t want it to reach us. We must make sure on how we could address and protect our borders. We have funding to support our registry to make sure we protect those who are pregnant,” said Muna.

She said that CHCC staff are trained and their laboratories prepared to take care of a patient in the CNMI that is infected by the Zika virus. They also recently hired Paul White, MSc, PhD, a state epidemiologist, who oversees the surveillance and regularly communicates with CDC.

“Our lab is capable of support and surveillance. We also have some federal funding, for example the Zika pregnancy registry. Basically about surveillance and working with the obstetrics department.”

Muna added that treating a patient who has Zika is almost the same like those infected with Ebola since there is no known cure. “Just taking care of the patient and treating their medical symptoms right. You can’t cure Ebola but you could try to address the symptoms.”

Using a mosquito repellant that has a high DEET content according to the product label; wearing long, loose-fitting, and light colored clothing; avoiding mosquito-infested areas; and installing, inspecting, and repairing window and door screens are some of the preventive measures in fighting Zika. “It is just a matter of yourself taking the necessary precautions and making sure insure that you won’t get bitten by a mosquito,” said Muna.

Muna said they have been monitoring the breed of mosquitoes here in the CNMI. “It is minimal but it is something that we need to do. We’re also working closely with CDC, making sure we have the data. No reported case here yet but we continue to remind people, especially those who are pregnant.”

“We’ve been monitoring the breed of mosquitoes here, checking if it is a virus carrier. So far we have not seen the type of mosquitoes here. But we’re still catching and checking. If there’s stagnant water, we collect it as a sample, to see what kind of breed is in there.”

She added that Zika has been around but it only became a full-blown concern after what happened to Brazil and the high cases of microcephaly there. “Brazil has the highest rate and cases of microcephaly. It was finally confirmed that there’s a connection with Zika and microcephaly.”

A pregnant woman bitten by a mosquito with Zika virus would have a child whose birth defect is having a small brain.

“Before, you just get rashes so just getting some bed rest and it’s gone, you’re okay. It is a different case now, it has gone beyond that and the outcome is you have a congenital disease,” said Muna.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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