The Strategic National Stockpile’s Unique Role in Zika PreventionPosted on by
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The first thing that comes to mind when people think about the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) is probably a big warehouse with lots of medicines and supplies. What many do not know is that even when the SNS does not have the specific medicines or supplies needed to combat a public health threat, SNS experts can play a key role in working with medical supply chain partners to locate and purchase products during an emergency response.
The involvement of the SNS in the Zika virus response is a perfect example of this little-known, but significant, role. Zika is spread to people primarily through the bite of an Aedes aegypti mosquito infected with Zika virus, although Aedes albopictus mosquitoes may also spread the virus. Recent outbreaks of Zika in the Americas, Caribbean, and Pacific Islands have coincided with increased reports of microcephaly and other birth defects as well as Guillain-Barré syndrome. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) response is focused on limiting the spread of Zika virus. Prevention is key for Zika control, because there is no vaccine or medicine for Zika virus. This is where the SNS comes in.
During a public health emergency, CDC can deploy the SNS for medicines and supplies or can use SNS’ contracting abilities to access materials and services that can be used to prevent or treat diseases that threaten U.S. health security. Controlling the mosquito population and addressing other known routes of infection are important to limit the spread of Zika virus in U.S. territories. The SNS is providing immediate vector control services and preventive supplies for pregnant women to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable because they can pass Zika virus to their fetuses, which can cause microcephaly and other brain defects.
Before the Zika virus outbreak, the SNS did not stock or purchase medicines or supplies to respond to illnesses spread by mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects. In response to this outbreak, SNS staff are working with CDC procurement experts to award and implement immediate, short-term contracts to deploy materials and services to control the mosquito populations responsible for Zika transmission. These contracts allow CDC to work with territorial public health jurisdictions to treat areas where mosquitoes breed and live, as well as areas where pregnant women live.
Zika Prevention Kits help pregnant women protect themselves
The SNS is creating Zika Prevention Kits for pregnant women in U.S. territories. These kits are being distributed as an effort to help prevent Zika infection in pregnant women and to reduce the number of babies born with birth defects caused by Zika, such as microcephaly and other brain defects. Through donations from the CDC Foundation and its partners and by purchasing products, the SNS has obtained materials for the kits – including insect repellent, larvicides, mosquito netting, condoms to prevent sexual transmission of Zika, and educational materials. The SNS is rapidly assembling these materials in reusable bags that can be given to pregnant women.
The SNS has sent nearly 7,000 kits to affected areas, and more are planned. Each U.S. territory is identifying the best way to get the kits to pregnant women. In Puerto Rico, local public health officials have partnered with clinics that are part of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) so they can reach expectant mothers. WIC already interacts with this population through its healthcare and nutritional services for low-income women, infants, and children. Local obstetrician offices are also being used to distribute these kits.
In the past, the SNS primarily focused on warehousing products and deploying those products for public health threats related to bioterrorism, pandemics, and natural disasters. With every emergency response, it has become more evident that the SNS can play a much larger role, especially when specialty products, products in high demand, and medical countermeasures are needed to secure the nation’s health. As one of the federal government’s leading groups of medical supply chain and logistics experts, the SNS at CDC has the ability to coordinate with industry partners to rapidly procure and transport medicines and supplies and serve specific populations in a public health emergency.