The government’s main goal today is to prevent further spread and to find those who have come into contact with infected people from other countries. The CDC’s latest infection trend report is below:
Drilling in and under ground:
To find new reservoirs of infection, the CDC will spend $500 million over the next two years to develop a new technique to look in and under the ground to check for new clusters of infection in the U.S. The process involves drilling 4-wheel-drive vehicles into the ground with cameras, and sampling the chemicals they find as they go.
These drill rigs can then be transported to a remote site and tested for contamination from surface and subsurface sources, such as wastewater, waste-water treatment plants, or chemical plants. This testing was done in August of last year, and the CDC is already looking to do it again in early 2013. A total of 6,600 different samples of soil from nearly 24 states were sent out for testing, and all found a positive signal. The drill technology itself is being developed at the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The data gathered from the wells is then analyzed to estimate which plants and materials have been exposed to the chemicals and whether contamination will spread further. The samples will then be screened for pathogens on an industrial scale that can cause illness, so if a significant amount has been found, it will be treated with disinfectant to kill such pathogens.
The process might cost $50,000,000 to do - a fact that will probably force the CDC to look elsewhere, as a total of $900,000,000 was budgeted for this research in the last budget. If it doesn’t end up being enough, however, the CDC could eventually need to look at developing these same techniques in the United States. In any case, the research is being funded by the CDC to find a way to better detect and take care of these new infections, but this is exactly what has gotten it into trouble before. This is in addition to the $1 Billion cost the CDC initially allocated to researching Zika in the U.S.. In that case, the idea was to identify how viruses like Zika spread from person to person by using biologicals, but that turned out to be a much more complex task with lots of different and different pathogens. It’s hard to imagine the same kind of science being able to identify and manage new pathogens like this one.
In the past, the researchers who made Zika into such a global public health crisis have been the ones who discovered new viruses, but it now looks like the only ones making new antibodies are scientists in the U.S. The public is currently not at the table of who the scientists are working for, and they don’t seem to care. Instead, the focus is on studying them to see if they can be used to treat an already-patented vaccine, and that appears to be what we’re going to be hearing a lot more of.