Feds: Zika ‘Seems To Be A Bit Scarier Than We Initially Thought’

(REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Officials from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used strong language Monday when discussing the dangers of a Zika virus outbreak in America.

“Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought,” Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC said during a White House briefing Monday. Schuchat and other experts claim “we absolutely need to be ready” for an outbreak in the continental U.S.

There are currently 346 cases of Zika confirmed in America. Each case is from a person who traveled to a Zika-prone country, such as Brazil.

“What I’ve done is take money from other areas of non-Zika research to start. We couldn’t just stop and wait for the money,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during the same briefing. “When the president asked for $1.9 billion, we needed $1.9 billion.”

The Obama administration has been lobbying Congress for $1.9 billion to combat the spread of the virus since February.

The officials linked Zika virus infections in pregnant women to fetal deaths and devastating birth defects such as microcephaly, when a baby is born with an abnormally small head. World Health Organization officials stated in February that a link between Zika and birth defects could be proven within weeks — though no definitive link has been made.

Laboratory studies, however, have confirmed the presence of Zika virus in the blood, tissue, brains and amniotic fluid of fetuses and babies diagnosed with microcephaly.

study published in March by the National Center for Atmospheric Research found that the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito could spread as far north as New York City this summer if the weather is warmer than average.

The Zika virus likely won’t spread as prolifically in the U.S. as it has in Latin America and the Caribbean, due to the high amount of Americans living and working behind air-conditioned doors. The study also found that small numbers of the mosquitoes can survive in much of North America during spring and fall when temperatures cool.

The  virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which lives in tropical climates. Outbreaks have a history of occurring in Southeast Asia, according to the CDC, but not in Vietnam. The WHO has said the virus has been reported in 61 countries, mostly in Latin America and Western Pacific region.

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