Zika's potential to spread in U.S. 'scarier than we initially thought:' CDC

Top U.S. health officials say the more they learn about Zika, the scarier the virus appears and they still need more money to fight the mosquitoes that spread it

Type of mosquito that carries Zika virus present in 30 states

Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, speaks to the media at the White House on Monday. Top U.S. health officials say the more they learn about Zika, the scarier the virus appears. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

Top U.S. health officials say the more they learn about Zika, the scarier the virus appears and they still need more money to fight the mosquitoes that spread it — and for research into vaccines and treatments.

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) says he's "not an alarmist," but he cites recent discoveries about how destructive Zika appears to be to fetal brains. There also are reports of rare neurologic problems in adults, too.

The Obama administration is using some leftover money from the Ebola fight to pay for Zika research but that's just a fraction of the $1.9 billion US it sought from Congress.

Fauci says the $589 million U.S. now available is a "temporary stopgap" and it's "not enough for us to get the job done."

Dr. Anne Schuchat, a deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters the type of mosquito in which the virus is carried is present in more U.S. states than initially thought.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is now thought be present in 30 states, instead of about 12.

"Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought and so while we absolutely hope we don't see wide spread local transmission in the continental U.S., we need the states to be ready for that." 

Schuchat said the virus is linked to a broader set of complications in pregnancy, not just microcephaly but also
prematurity, eye problems and other conditions. 

Schuchat said they're concerned about the  spread of Zika virus in Puerto Rico, where there could be hundreds of thousands of cases and "perhaps hundreds of affected babies." 

Fauci said the first Zika vaccine candidate from the NIH should be available in September.  Such an experimental vaccine would need to clear testing in animals before clinical trials in humans could begin. If those trials are successful then a manufacturer could apply to regulators to commercially produce a vaccine. The whole process can take years.


 

With files from Reuters and CBC News

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