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New cases of Zika virus infections related and unrelated to travel have been identified in Florida, bringing the total of reported Zika infections in the state to more than 1,000. As the number of mosquito-borne infections continue to climb in Florida and abroad, Mayo Clinic infectious diseases experts Dr. Gregory Poland and Dr. Pritish Tosh stress the importance of mosquito bite prevention, and the need for a Zika vaccine.
"Nationally, there are two vaccines that just started very early human trials," says Dr. Poland, who is director of the Vaccine Research groups at Mayo Clinic. "Here at Mayo Clinic, my laboratory and research group is also developing a vaccine against Zika virus. We are taking a different approach than any other group has taken. We are getting pieces of the virus and packaging those with a biodegradable nonoparticle then using that as a vaccine. At the current time, we are growing the virus, learning how it changes and affects cells, learning what the immune response is, and we'll take that information and develop a vaccine. We will not have a vaccine next year. It will take years for these vaccines to go through these clinical trials and to finally be approved."
"We need a vaccine that is safe and effective to prevent people from getting infected with Zika," Dr. Pritish Tosh says. "There are things people can do. If they to go an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission, they should be wearing mosquito repellent so they protect themselves from becoming infected. Also, when they come back, they need to continue to put on insect repellant for at least three week, so if they are asymptomatic and infected with Zika, they don't pass it on-to local mosquitoes."
The best defense against infection is mosquito bite prevention. "Right now, the only thing we can is control the standing water and get people to take mosquito precautions," says Dr.Poland. "Get the standing water out of your yard; use mosquito repellent. The mosquito that causes this is only the female mosquito, and she is mostly a daytime biter."