US Pesticide Controls Targeted In Zika Fight

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Zika in Miami

The White House has not ruled out calls for restrictions to be relaxed on some pesticides to control the spread of Zika.

President Barack Obama’s spokesman, Josh Earnest, said US officials were willing to consider a range of options to combat the virus.

“We’ll certainly rely on the advice of experts in making decisions about the most effective strategies to deploy to fight the mosquito population,” the White House spokesman told a news briefing.

US health officials announced last Friday that mosquitoes have apparently started spreading Zika on the mainland.

They advised pregnant women to avoid a part of Miami, Florida, where the insects are suspected of transmitting the virus directly to humans.

More than a dozen people have been infected, mostly men.

Republicans have been arguing that pesticide regulations, introduced by US environmental health authorities to prevent water supplies being polluted, should be loosened, ostensibly to fight Zika.

The Obama administration warned on Wednesday that money to fight Zika will run out by the end of August.

The President requested $1.9bn (£1.4bn) in February to fight the virus.

But the US Congress went on summer recess last month without approving any legislation for Zika funds, amid the usual partisan bickering.

A British firm, Oxitec, which engineers genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes, has said the insects could be let loose in Florida’s battle against Zika.

The company said a decision is expected imminently by US regulators.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes – genetically altered so their offspring die before they are able to reproduce – are under review by the Food and Drug Administration for possible use in the US.

Oxitec’s tests in Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands showed its GM mosquitoes could reduce local Aedes aegypti populations by more than 90%.

The Zika outbreak was first detected last year in Brazil, where it has been linked to more than 1,700 cases of microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size.

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