Fearing Zika, local businesses join the call for genetically-modified mosquitoes
The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce is telling residents to lobby the federal government for the release of genetically modified mosquitoes to fight Zika in Pinellas County.
"We cannot afford to have visitors cancel their vacation plans due to the Zika Virus and urge you to provide Pinellas County authorization to combat the Zika Virus immediately," reads a script the chamber is asking locals to read aloud on the phone or paste into an email to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.
Last week, a bipartisan coalition of Tampa Bay lawmakers called on Burwell to use an emergency use provision to allow Pinellas to use the modified mosquitoes locally.
Earlier this month, the Tampa Bay Times published an in-depth story on the genetically-modified mosquitoes proposed to fight Zika.
The mosquitoes, created by a British firm called Oxitec, have virtually eliminated the population of the mosquito that carries Zika in parts of Latin America by mating with wild mosquitoes and killing their offspring.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the Oxitec mosquito for a trial in Key West, saying it has no significant impact on the environment or human health. But residents of Key West are skeptical of the genetically-modified mosquito and have held up the trial; these mosquitoes can not be released throughout the United States until a trial takes place.
The first case of locally-transmitted Zika was confirmed in Pinellas on April 23. The victim is a Tampa firefighter living in Pinellas, and he does not have the disease anymore, a Tampa Fire spokesman said earlier today.
Read the full letter from the chamber of commerce below:
Zika Virus Combatant
Alert: Urge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for additional assistance to combat the Zika Virus in Pinellas County.
Background Information: The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce along with Tampa Bay area elected officials are calling on the federal government to allow use of genetically modified mosquitoes to fight the spread of Zika in Pinellas County.
Take Action: 1.) Call or email the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Phone: (202) 690-6392
2.) Use the script below to relay your message over the phone or copy and paste the below text into an email.
I am urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to approve the request from Tampa Bay area elected officials allowing Pinellas County Commissioners authorization to combat the spread of the Zika Virus.
We urge your office to use its "emergency use" authorization pursuant to section 564 of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act as amended by the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2013 ("Section 564"). As Secretary of Health and Human Services, you may use the "emergency use" provisions in Section 564 to allow Pinellas County to utilize the mosquitoes (OX513A) that have been approved for the proposed pilot program in Monroe County, FL.
As you are aware, the Zika Virus poses serious risk to our tourism industry and we must do everything in our power to stop the spread of the Zika Virus in an effort to protect our economy. Last year, Florida saw over 1 million visitors to the state creating over $89 billion in economic impact and over 1 million jobs. We cannot afford to have visitors cancel their vacation plans due to the Zika Virus and urge you to provide Pinellas County authorization to combat the Zika Virus immediately."