1. Health

Richard Corcoran, Janet Cruz join forces to demand federal action on Zika

Published Aug. 30, 2016

The incoming Republican and Democrat leaders of the Florida House are teaming up to demand that the federal government grant persmission to use genetically modified mosquitoes in an effort to curb the spread of Zika.

A letter released late Monday by House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, and incoming Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, says that "red tape" creates "an unnecessary health risk to the people of our state."

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved trials of the mosquitoes, which mate with the Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes that spread Zika and produce offspring that do not survive.

Corcoran and Cruz's letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell and Dr. Robert Califf, commissioner of the FDA, calls on the feds to issue a public health emergency and give Florida cities and counties access to the mosquitoes, developed by a company called Oxitec.

"Red tape is never an acceptable justification for the loss of human life," Corocoran wrote.

Other members of the Florida House have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to sign onto the letter as well. Corcoran sent all 160 representatives a plea for unity: "Florida has a strong tradition of bipartisan cooperation in response to public emergencies. We have an opportunity here to speak in a strong, clear, and unified voice."

In a statement, Cruz called for "the flexibility to confront a growing public health emergency on the front lines of this outbreak."

The lawmakers cite successes in Brazil and the Cayman Islands. However, some scientists have said the genetically modified bugs are better suited for confined spaces like the Florida Keys and may prove less effective in larger areas.

"I'm not sure that in the Miami environment it would be as effective," Paul Linser, a biologist and member of the Florida Coordinating Council on Mosquito Control, told the Times/Herald early this month when the first local outbreak was attributed to mosquitoes in Miami's Wynwood district..

The Aedes Aegypti does not fly beyond 150 yards in its lifetime, making it much harder for genetically modified mosquitoes to blanket the total area of a community where Zika has been spread, such as Miami-Dade, Pinellas or Palm Beach counties.

As of Monday afternoon, Florida had 43 locally transmitted cases of Zika.


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