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Can airlines and airports use 'smart contracts' for shared control of data?

SITA Lab, the research team of the air transport industry’s IT provider SITA, today revealed the learnings from research it carried out with British Airways, Heathrow, Geneva Airport and Miami International Airport into ‘smart contracts’ residing on a blockchain.

Blockchain has been heralded as a transformational technology for many industries. While several use cases have been identified for the air transport industry, the opportunity of using ‘smart contracts’ for shared control of data by airlines and airports is one which promises real benefits. SITA Lab today issued FlightChain, a paper outlining the findings of its research conducted with its airline and airport partners.

The air transport industry is highly-connected and there is a need for ‘single source of truth’ for various data used by different stakeholders. Control of shared data is a key concern for all. Blockchain offers potential to share data in a controlled way. SITA recognizes, however, that there is a need for research so the industry can take the right approach, to ensure governance, standards, compliance, security and more.

This research project was initially established by SITA Lab with Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited (HAL) and International Airlines Group (IAG) with Geneva Airport and Miami International Airport participating. Called FlightChain, it was devised to investigate a single source of truth for flight data.  The “flight data problem” is a well-known issue in the industry - namely, there is no single source of the truth and the data that does exist, is not easily accessed by all parties.

While there are many cases of airlines and airports collaborating to share flight data, this data still resides in separate silos. When there are flight delays, this results in differences between passenger apps, airport FIDS and airline agents. FlightChain ensures all stakeholders have the same information.

Jim Peters, CTO, SITA, said: “Our FlightChain project has demonstrated that blockchain is a viable technology to provide a single source of truth for data for airlines and airports, specifically for real-time flight information. While there are other technologies available for sharing data, the use of blockchain, and smart contracts in particular, provides ‘shared control’ and improves the trustworthiness of the data. This research with our partners shows the potential of blockchain for sharing data across the air transport industry.”

FlightChain was established as a private permissioned blockchain (implemented on both Ethereum and Hyperledger-Fabric) that stores flight information on the blockchain, using a smart contract to arbitrate potentially conflicting data. British Airways, Geneva Airport, Heathrow and Miami International Airport provide flight data that is merged and stored on the blockchain. During this project more than two million flight changes were processed by the smart contract and stored on FlightChain.

Stuart Harwood, Heathrow Automation and Innovation, HAL, said: “Heathrow’s participation in FlightChain with SITA Lab has been very valuable. We are still early in the blockchain technology cycle and more research is required but FlightChain has shown the opportunities for shared control of data with our industry partners.”

Peters, added: “In a real-world network, it will be important to manage the changes to the smart contract as it affects all participants. Industry bodies such as ACI and IATA, working with SITA as the neutral IT provider to the air transport community, could be involved in the establishment of the contract. In fact, we can imagine a future where industry standards are written directly as smart contracts instead of published as PDF documents.”

Glenn Morgan, Head of Digital Business Transformation at International Airlines Group (IAG), said: “Now we’ve proven the technology, we are really excited by the opportunities that blockchain can create in the industry. We will work with IATA and ACI to ensure the best practices are in place.”

The research paper published today details key lessons learned regarding governance, smart contracts, system security and system performance, scalability and reliability. Along with a view on the use of public versus private blockchain networks for the air transport industry.

Lawmakers, Procurement Experts Call Puerto Rico Power Contract a 'Travesty'

 

The Trump administration is distancing itself from a controversial contract aimed at rebuilding the power grid in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, which procurement experts and lawmakers say has dubious origins and contains highly unusual provisions.

The contract in question was valued at $300 million and awarded to a small Montana firm, Whitefish Energy, by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. The unusually high labor costs and language that prohibits government agencies from auditing certain aspects of the deal, as revealed in the leaked contract, sparked concern from members of Congress and government watchdogs. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the contract “raises every red flag in the book.”

Both the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Administration have distanced themselves from the contract.

“Based on initial review and information from PREPA, FEMA has significant concerns with how PREPA procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable,” FEMA said in a statement on Friday. “FEMA is presently engaged with PREPA and its legal counsel to obtain information about the contract and contracting process, including how the contract was procured and how PREPA determined the contract prices were reasonable.”

One provision of the document stated “FEMA has reviewed and approved of this contract” and is “an acceptable form to qualify for funding from FEMA and other U.S. governmental agencies,” but FEMA said that characterization is “inaccurate.”

Another section of the contract states “the federal government is not a party to this contract and is not subject to any obligations or liabilities to PREPA” or anyone else party to the document. FEMA said it has yet to provide any reimbursement to Whitefish, adding any applicant for its public assistance grants must abide by federal requirements or “risk not being reimbursed.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said at a briefing on Friday the contract was “not something the federal government played a role in” and declined to comment on its propriety until a proper audit is conducted.

Both the process for obtaining the contract and the subject of it are problematic, said Steven Schooner, a professor of government procurement law at The George Washington University and a former associate administrator for procurement law and legislation at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the Office of Management and Budget. Whitefish did not go through a competitive, open bidding process before receiving the contract. The attempt to limit transparency through restricting audits “jumps off the page” and is “highly irregular,” Schooner said.

The contract states that, “In no event shall PREPA, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the FEMA administrator, the comptroller general of the United States, or any of their authorized representatives have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements of the labor rates specified herein."

Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, said an audit clause used to be standard practice until sometime during the Clinton administration. He added that many contracts today still go out the door without requiring firms to “provide adequate support for costs or prices.” Amey found problematic another clause in the contract, in which PREPA waived “any claims against” Whitefish for any delays in completing work.

The waiver “raises concerns about whether Whitefish or its subcontractor workforce is prolonging the work to reach, and possibly extend, the contract’s $300 million ceiling,” Amey said.

Amey echoed Schooner in noting the contract highlighted the difficulties in negotiating relief contracts after a disaster strikes. Many observers faulted Puerto Rico for reaching an agreement with Whitefish rather than relying on a previously established mutual-aid network of public utilities that typically handle power restoration.

Several aspects of the billing have also raised concerns. A journeyman lineman on the contract, Schooner noted, would make about $228 per hour. Subcontracted journeyman linemen, who will provide the vast majority of the work for the contract, will earn $319 per hour. That provides a significant take off the top for Whitefish, Schooner said, in which “you’d have to be an idiot” to send your own employees to do the work rather than hiring subcontractors. Those employees will also earn a $400 per diem, according to the contract, meaning a subcontractor lineman working eight hours would bill at nearly $3,000 per day.

“That’s a jaw-dropping rate,” Schooner said. “How could somebody have agreed to these kinds of rates?”

Whitefish is also billing the government at an hourly rate for equipment, which Schooner called “unthinkable.”

“It’s so unbelievably nonsensical I don’t even know where to begin,” he said.

The contract initially came under scrutiny after reports surfaced that Whitefish is headquartered in the small town where Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke lives, and that Zinke’s son interned at the company. Interior has denied Zinke had any involvement with the contract, something Sanders said Zinke reiterated to Trump at a previously scheduled White House meeting on Friday.

"Any attempts by the dishonest media or political operatives to tie me to awarding or influencing any contract involving Whitefish are completely baseless," Zinke said in a statement Friday. "I welcome any and all investigations into these allegations, and encourage the Interior Department's inspector general to investigate this matter fully." 

Two House committees, Energy and Commerce and well as Natural Resources, have launched probes into the contract. The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general is also investigating the contract. McCaskill and the chairman of her committee, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., wrote a letter to the IG requesting he determine whether the contract is eligible for reimbursement under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. Their committee is holding a hearing on the federal government’s recent hurricane response efforts, and McCaskill said Trump administration officials “better be ready to answer tough questions on exactly what is happening with this contract.”

The no-audit clause in Whitefish’s contract, Amey noted, did not apply to the DHS IG or congressional committees.

Schooner praised the reviews underway, calling the contract a “travesty” and suggesting some major changes happen quickly.

“It would be an abomination if it isn’t very quickly terminated, modified or replaced,” he said.

 

New Cybersecurity Regulations Adopted to Protect Financial Systems & Information

In 2016 almost 1.1 billion identities were stolen globally.  This number is up dramatically from a reported 563.8 million identities stolen in 2015.   In addition, the same Symantec Internet Security Threat Report placed the United States at the top of the list for both the number of breaches by country (1,023) and the number of identities stolen by country.

New York State’s Division of Financial Security and other government entities around the globe have been monitoring this increased cybercriminal threat and determining means to help protect the private information of individuals as well as the information technology systems of regulated organizations.

New York State’s Division of Financial Security released new cybersecurity requirements (23 NYCRR 500), directly affecting the way that financial data is managed going forward. Applicable to financial services companies operating in New York State, these regulations declare that, on an annual basis, financial firms are required to prepare and submit a Certification of Compliance with the NY DFS Cybersecurity Regulations to the superintendent, commencing on February 15, 2018.

The scope of this legislation describes measures related to: cybersecurity programs and policy, personnel, resources and training, penetration testing and assessments, audit trails, access privileges, application security, third parties, NPI (Non Public Information) encryption, data retention, incident response and notification.

Among other requirements, this regulation dictates that companies declare any cyberattack to the superintendent within 72 hours. In the past, many companies chose to not disclose information related to these hacking exposures because much of their cost stems from damage to brand reputation and the necessary steps required to rebuild the trust of their clients post-attack.

Similar to the NY DFS proposal, the Federal Reserve Board (FSD), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and the FDIC issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) on enhanced cyber risk management and resilience standards for large banking organizations.  Additionally, the states of Vermont and Colorado have released laws pertaining to cybersecurity and the improved protection and monitoring of data. 

Two technologies specifically called out in the new NYS DFS Cybersecurity requirements, Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) and Risk Based Authentication (RBA), are key methods of complying with regulation and defending against attacks. 

Multi-factor authentication is defined as using at least two factors to authenticate a person, generally a combination of:

  • “Something I Have” — this could be a hardware token, a mobile soft token, etc.
  • “Something I Know” — like a PIN code, a password, and
  • “Something I Am” — such as a fingerprint or face recognition.

With MFA, the two factors are fully independent from each other (i.e. the failure of one factor would not compromise the other one).

Risk based authentication is the capacity to detect anomalies or changes in the normal use patterns of a person as part of the authentication process, require additional verification if an anomaly is detected to avoid any breach.

It is more efficient to avoid hacking and cyber-attacks in the first place by focusing attention on the security of the applications being accessed, both externally and internally.  To learn more about these regulations and how similar standards will impact you, visit www.hidglobal.com/iam.

Alta Tactical SmartBalloon Persistent Low Altitude Surveillance System Unveiled At Southwest Border Security Week

MCALLEN, TEXAS (PRWEB As the need to monitor and secure America’s borders intensifies, Coral Gables, Florida-based Altametry, Inc., unveils its new ALTA Tactical SmartBalloon™ system at the 2016 Southwest Border Security Week conference at the Casa De Palmas Renaissance hotel from March 30 to April 1. ALTA Systems™ are created to provide cost efficient Persistent Low Altitude Surveillance™ (PLAS) capabilities to law enforcement, public safety, and homeland security agencies by day or night.

Each ALTA Tactical SmartBalloon™ system is composed of a micro-sized tethered aerostat PLAS™ platform designed to be highly portable and provide sustained surveillance for extended mission sets across a wide variety of terrain and environments. Altametry has partnered with conference sponsor BluTek Solutions to showcase the ALTA BatVu and ALTA TriVu SmartBalloons™ at the Texas event.

“The mission to secure America’s borders has been catapulted into the spotlight of the national security agenda,” says Dr. Bertrand Dano, Chief Scientist for Altametry. “ALTA Tactical SmartBalloons™ provide operators the capability to conduct effective Persistent Low Altitude Surveillance™ coverage by day or night in targeted areas requiring fixed aerial monitoring for extended durations.”

The ALTA TriVu is a daytime and low-light system offering PLAS™ through three separate high definition cameras operating at various focal lengths. The TriVu system provides full audio and video recording of the targeted area, as well as a live, encrypted data feed sent to command and control units. The ALTA BatVu is a nighttime system boasting FLIR thermal imaging capabilities accompanied by two low light, high definition cameras recording audio/video and also allowing for an encrypted data feed to ground commanders.

 

“There is extensive demand for cutting-edge aerial surveillance systems like ALTA by law enforcement agencies throughout the world,” states Dennis Weiner, President, BluTek Solutions. “We are excited to introduce the ALTA Tactical SmartBalloon™ system into the marketplace as a well-built, cost effective, and American made solution for providing Persistent Low Altitude Surveillance™.”

FRA Announces $25 Million Available for Positive Train Control Implementation

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transporation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced that it is accepting applications for $25 million in competitive grant funding available to railroads, suppliers, and state and local governments for Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation.  The funding is part of the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act that funds the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Positive train control is a long overdue technology that prevents accidents and saves lives,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “These funds will help us get closer to implementing PTC, and I encourage applications that can make these limited dollars go as far as possible.”

Applications will be accepted until May 19, 2016, and FRA will give preference to projects that would provide the greatest level of public safety benefits.  As part of the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal, FRA requested $1.25 billion to assist commuter and short line railroads with implementing PTC.

PTC prevents certain train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zone limits, and trains going to the wrong tracks because a switch was left in the wrong position.  In 2008, Congress mandated PTC implementation on certain railroad main lines where railroads transport poisonous-by-inhalation hazardous (PIH) or toxic-by-inhalation hazardous (TIH) materials, or any line where a railroad provides regularly scheduled passenger service.  Last October, Congress extended the original deadline from December 31, 2015 to at least December 31, 2018.

 

“Any Congressional funding and investment to make Positive Train Control active on our nation’s railroad network is a worthwhile investment,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg.  “But it will take even more significant funding to achieve this important, life-saving goal.  We look forward to working with Congress to find these resources and encourage railroads to submit strong applications.” 

New Patent Affords More Accurate Video Detection and Fewer False Alarms

PHOENIX, Ariz. – PureTech Systems®, an Arizona-based geospatial video analytics company, today announced the issuance of a patent by the United States Patent Office - US Patent 9,292,743 "Background Modeling for Fixed, Mobile, And Step-And-Stare Video Camera."

Within the field of video analytics, “background modeling” refers to the ability to understand normal movement that may occur in a scene, such as vegetation movement, lighting changes, flowing water or even the passing of a subway train. Having a keen understanding of the changing background, allows for more accurate target detection, and more importantly, a reduction in false alarms. One significant claim of the new patent is that no assumption about the nature of the background is required. The software and/or installer does not need to concern themsleves with the type of scene for which the algorithm will be utilized.

More specifically, the pixel-based multimodal background model makes no assumption about the number of modes or functional forms of the underlying distributions while exploiting radiometric information along with gradient magnitude and orientation through one, or a host, of such models to adapt to backgrounds that change with multitude of periodicities over the same or different regions of the scene while remaining geospatial-aware.

An additional, and perhaps more important, aspect of the patent is that it lends itself to deployment on PTZs, and video cameras mounted on mobile platforms including, ground vehicles (trucks, trains, AGVs-Automated Guided Vehicles), waterborne vessels and aerial platforms (including AGVs, aerostats). The act of steering a PTZ camera, or the movement of a vehicle or platform on which a camera is mounted, results in a constantly moving background, for which this patent applies. In the same manner as the patent provides claims for a fixed scene with a changing background, it also applies to background movement induced by changing the position of the camera.

 

“PureTech Systems continues to be a pioneer in the development of new capability in the field of video analytics,” notes Larry Bowe, president of PureTech Systems. “As the demand for intelligent video increases, so does the complexity of the scenes and the variety of methods and platforms used to collect video data,” furthers Bowe. “These new market demands require continued research and development; which PureTech Systems continues to pursue.”

The patent, granted on March 22, 2016, has application across multiple markets, including perimeter security, defense, geo-intelligence/GEOINT applications, border, military, retail, transportation, manufacturing and consumer.

Port2Port and Neptune Maritime Security to merge

Port2Port Maritime Security and Neptune Maritime Security, two of the leading global maritime security risk management providers, announced today that they have agreed to merge. The combined group will provide significant scale and service advantages to the shipping and offshore industries, as well as

improving the global reach of both companies.

The merger follows an extensive strategic evaluation process between both companies, where key areas such as operational capability, logistics and quality of service were carefully examined to ensure consistent and enhanced service for existing and new clients.

Andrew Varney, Managing Director of Port2Port said, "This merger is demonstrably positive progress for the maritime security sector, which sees two prolific risk management companies of similar DNA and a shared commitment to standards coming together for the tangible benefit of their respective clients. Both Neptune and Port2Port have worked extremely hard to develop robust, respected and credible services for the shipping and offshore industries. Consolidation within our industry is inevitable and necessary. Therefore, we took the view that a mature and forward thinking but commercially informed approach was required to remain competitive and ensure the highest service standards in what is still a very challenging global market.”

Port2Port and Neptune have now successfully delivered well in excess of 3000 armed transits in the Eastern HRA. Since its creation in 2009, Neptune was at the forefront of regulation and legislation in the maritime security domain, taking a leading role in the creation of the industry standard ISO PAS 28007. Both companies were involved in the pilot scheme as the standard was introduced. Port2Port has established itself as one of the few companies able to provide effective and legally compliant services in the Gulf of Guinea and West Africa. Port2Port and Neptune both provide a range of specialist risk management consultancy and training advisory services to our shipping and marine offshore client base.

Carl Sykes, Managing Director, Neptune, said, “Since inception in 2011, Port2Port Maritime has built a robust and highly capable maritime security business, and I am extremely pleased that we have agreed to combine the resources and vast experience of both companies. We view the merger of Port2Port and Neptune as an extremely positive and dynamic step, enabling a greater scope of service provision and global coverage. We remain committed to protecting the shipping, marine and offshore industries and providing a first class service to our clients.”

Both companies are working closely to ensure that this transition is managed compliantly and safely, ensuring continuity of service with increased efficiencies and economies of scale for all clients. Port2Port and Neptune are both certified to international, globally recognised standards and fully licensed by the UK Government.

About Neptune Maritime Security: NEPTUNE is an international risk management and maritime security company providing specialist security services, risk consultancy and training solutions for the safety, protection and well being of individuals, assets and organisations. As a British owned company with our principal office located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and management support office in the United Kingdom (UK), we are well placed to support our clients’ needs within the Middle East, Africa and Asia regions, maintaining our ability to manage operational risk in other global areas.

www.neptunemaritimesecurity.com

About Port2Port: Port2Port Maritime Security Ltd. is a fully accredited, licensed and compliant global Maritime Security Risk Management Company specialising in the delivery of maritime protection services to the international shipping and offshore industries. The company has its Head Office in Manchester with regional offices in Dubai, India and Singapore.

 

www.port2portuk.com

Temporary TSA Pre application center to open at PDX terminal

PORTLAND – Residents of Portland and Southwest Washington will be able to apply to the Transportation Security Administration’s popular TSA Pre® application program inside the Portland International Airport (PDX) terminal from April 11 to 22, where officials will host a temporary application center.

The airport is a convenient location to apply to the program. The temporary application center will be pre-security and does not require the applicant to be a ticketed passenger.

Travelers need only to make an appointment online and complete their application in-person or as a walk-in at the application center. The application center will be located at the south end of baggage claim area past carousel 2 and will be open from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Walk-ins are also welcome.

This application process allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to apply directly to TSA Pre® – an expedited screening program that allows travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, keep their laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry-on, in select TSA airport checkpoint screening lanes. More than 160 airports are participating in TSA Pre® nationwide and 13 airlines participate in the program including Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, One Jet, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country, United Airlines, WestJet, Virgin America and Air Canada.

To participate in this application opportunity, travelers should make an appointment online and pre-apply at tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/apply. Select the application center located at 7000 NE Airport Way, Portland, Oregon 97218-1009.

It typically only takes 10 minutes to pre-apply. At the bottom of the screen, applicants can select an appointment time using the drop down menu to choose a date and/or time.

Applicants will need to bring documentation proving identity and citizenship status. The application fee is $85 and is good for five years. It can be paid at the time of your appointment by credit card, money order, company check, or certified/cashier’s check. Cash and personal checks are not accepted. Fingerprints also are required during the in-person application session.

 

After completing the application process, successful applicants will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) via U.S. mail within a few weeks that is valid for five years. The applicant should enter the provided KTN in the “Known Traveler Number” field when booking airline reservations. The KTN also can be added when booking reservations online via a participating airline website, via phone call to the airline reservation center, or with the travel management company making reservations. Additionally, the KTN can be entered in participating airline frequent flyer profiles, where it will be stored for future reservations.

Zecotek cites world events, sees radiation-detecting LFS crystals serving security markets

SINGAPORE /PRNewswire/ - Zecotek Photonics Inc. (TSX-V: ZMS; Frankfurt: W1I.F, OTCPK: ZMSPF), a developer of leading-edge photonics technologies for industrial, healthcare and scientific markets, is pleased to announce that it has received preliminary orders for its patented Lutetium Fine Silicate (LFS) scintillation crystals from major OEMs developing radiation monitoring and detection devices. The LFS crystals will be tested in devices used in homeland security and border protection and safety, specifically border security, land crossings, airports, harbours and strategic government buildings.

"Our LFS scintillation crystals are once again being considered as an important component in the radiation detection market due to their superior attributes," said Dr. A.F. Zerrouk, Chairman, President, and CEO of Zecotek Photonics Inc. "LFS crystals are ideal at detecting small amounts of radiation due to their unique combination of characteristics: high energy resolution, low background noise, high light yield and short decay time. We are working with our strategic partners to capture this meaningful opportunity, and expect the requirement for LFS crystals to grow substantially."

World events such as the Fukushima disaster, growing security threats worldwide, increased security budgets of port authorities, the aviation industry, sporting events, and the growing threat of nuclear terrorism have contributed to the significant growth of the overall radiation safety market. Experts have published that the market for instruments specifically designed to measure radiation is estimated to grow to US$3.5 billion by 2022.

A scintillation detection system consists of scintillation crystals, photo detectors, an electric signal and processing electronics. The systems can be made quite large and are widely used in radiation detection, assay of radioactive materials and physics research because they can be made inexpensively with good quantum efficiency. Furthermore, the device can measure both the intensity and the energy of incident radiation. The scintillation crystals generate photons (light) in response to incident radiation. A sensitive photo detector converts the light to an electrical signal.

 

Zecotek's LFS scintillation crystals are ideal for the application of radiation detection because they have higher spectroscopic resolution and a decay constant that is 10 times faster and more accurate than competing crystals. Zecotek is working closely with OEMs to develop detection devices for various application and with its strategic partnerships it is ready to handle any sudden increase in crystals production.

National Zika Summit Focused on Coordinated U.S. Response

ATLANTA – On Friday, more than 300 local, state, and federal government officials; health experts; and non-government partners gathered at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prepare for the likelihood of mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus in some parts of the continental United States. Representatives from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa said already are experiencing active Zika transmission.

Hosted by CDC, the one-day Zika Action Plan Summit brought together officials from local, state and federal jurisdictions, as well as non-government organizations, to help ensure a coordinated response to the mosquito-borne illness linked to the devastating birth defect microcephaly. The summit aimed to identify gaps in readiness and provide technical support to states in the development of Zika action plans that will allow their jurisdictions to effectively prepare for and respond to active Zika transmission they may experience.

"The mosquitoes that carry Zika virus are already active in U.S. territories, hundreds of travelers with Zika have already returned to the continental U.S., and we could well see clusters of Zika virus in the continental U.S. in the coming months. Urgent action is needed, especially to minimize the risk of exposure during pregnancy," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Everyone has a role to play. With federal support, state and local leaders and their community partners will develop a comprehensive action plan to fight Zika in their communities."

Summit attendees heard the latest scientific knowledge about Zika, including implications for pregnant women and strategies for mosquito control. The meeting also included opportunities to learn about best communications practices; identify possible gaps in preparedness and response at the federal, state, and local levels; and help begin to address those gaps, including through the refinement of draft Zika action plans. Representatives from state and local jurisdictions met with experts to get technical assistance and guidance on their Zika action plans.

"The Administration is coordinating a whole-of-government effort to ensure that we are taking all available steps to prepare for Zika and work together with state, local, tribal, and territorial officials to protect Americans," said Amy Pope, J.D., White House Deputy Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy Assistant to the President. "That's why President Obama has requested $1.9 billion to prepare for, detect, and respond to any potential Zika outbreaks here at home, and limit the spread in other countries."

Presenters included CDC experts on Zika's risk to pregnant women and their fetuses, identification and diagnosis of Zika, mosquito control, and what local and state leaders can do. Representatives from Florida, New York City, Texas, and Puerto Ricowill discussed state and local response to other mosquito-borne diseases, including chikungunya, dengue, and West Nile virus.

Also on Friday, CDC released a Vital Signs report with information that reinforces previous CDC guidance and suggested actions that pregnant women and their partners can take to prevent Zika virus infection during pregnancy. The Vital Signs report describes what the U.S. government is doing, what state and local public health agencies and healthcare providers can do, and what can be done to prevent mosquito bites that potentially spread Zika. The report also includes an updated map of the U.S. with the latest available information on where the mosquitoes that can transmit the virus have been found.

Zika virus disease is caused by Zika virus that is spread to people primarily through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, though Aedes aegypti are more likely to spread Zika. Sexual transmission also has been documented. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for Zika. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). In previous outbreaks, the illness has typically been mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. However, mounting evidence links Zika virus infection in pregnant women with a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly. Zika also has been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an uncommon sickness of the nervous system in which a person's immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.

 

Portions of the Zika Action Plan Summit are available via live webcast. For more information about the webcast or summit, visit:http://www.cdc.gov/zap/index.html.

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