AFT Resolution

ZIKA VIRUS

WHEREAS, the World Health Organization has declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has affected between 440,000 and 1.3 million people in Brazil, a global public health emergency. Although local transmission of Zika has not been documented in the continental United States, the virus has been reported in returning travelers, and locally transmitted cases have been reported to the Pan American Health Organization from Puerto Rico and 19 other countries or territories in the Americas. In light of the recent outbreaks, the number of travelers visiting or returning to the United States with the Zika virus is likely to increase; and

WHEREAS, the Zika virus is transmitted primarily by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, mosquitoes not found in the United States, and as the number of cases has burgeoned among the populations in the Americas over the past nine months, the rate of children born with abnormally small heads (microcephaly) and concomitant brain compression in Brazil has grown from 147 cases in 2014 to more than 4,000 in 2015 (an increase of more than 2,700 percent), raising a high level of suspicion that microcephaly is associated with the Zika virus, a suspicion requiring significant research; and

WHEREAS, short-term strategies for controlling the spread of the virus include killing Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, cleaning the habitats where they breed, encouraging women of child-bearing age to consider the advisability of becoming pregnant, and restricting travel to countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean. In the interim, we need an international focus on data tracking and ongoing public education, and a long-term initiative for research, treatment and possible vaccine development; and

WHEREAS, the knowledge and capacity of the U.S. public and private healthcare systems to address infectious diseases were brought under the microscope with their ability to effectively manage the relatively few active cases of Ebola brought into the country in 2014, and to manage the screening process of those with potential exposure; and funding to improve infrastructure preparedness capacity remains woefully inadequate, and austerity budgets have affected universities and research institutions as well, weakening their ability to develop vaccines and preventive measures to such emerging public health threats as Zika, Ebola, dengue fever and chikungunya; nevertheless, preparations for full protective measures and monitoring should begin immediately; and

WHEREAS, during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the American Federation of Teachers trained and prepared hundreds of healthcare members in best practices in infection control, made site visits, and created an abundance of online educational resource materials, educational webinars and customized resources to enhance member knowledge and decrease fear; and

WHEREAS, the AFT is an affiliate of Public Services International, and PSI affiliates around the world are at the frontline of the response to Zika and other public health emergencies; these affiliates’ members range from nurses and other healthcare professionals to public sector workers charged with maintaining clean water and sanitation:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will immediately develop and disseminate educational resources, for member use and for use as patient and community education materials, that outline the facts, detail the knowledge gaps, and link members to the most up-to-date materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, research experts and others; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue its role as a major public advocate for community safety and well-being, now in addressing Zika, and continue collaborative leadership involving local and federal government officials, hospital management and healthcare professionals themselves in the development of surveillance, education and policy at the local, state and federal levels; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue to advocate for long-term improvement in our overall healthcare infrastructure to reverse the shortfall in our capacity to address emerging national and transnational medical emergencies; this improvement must include adequate staffing and funding for the healthcare infrastructure, as well as for university and research institutions; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT stands prepared to work with Public Services International and its affiliates to address crucial needs in those affiliates’ healthcare systems and help reverse years of neglect and underdevelopment in healthcare infrastructure.

(2016)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.