The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it’s learned more about the Zika virus and the threat to the continental United States.
“Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC. “While we hope we don’t see widespread transmission in the continental U.S., we need the states to be ready for that.”
Dr. Schuchat made the comments to reporters this week during a White House Press Briefing. She says new research also suggests the virus is linked to a broader set of complications in pregnancy – not just microcephaly. Dr. Schuchat says the virus can also cause premature birth, eye problems and is being linked to some other conditions.
“We’ve also learned that the virus is likely to be a problem at much of the pregnancy period, not just probably the first trimester, but potentially throughout the pregnancy,” Dr. Schuchat said.
CDC officials say the specific type of mosquito thought to be responsible for transmitting the virus is found in more states than originally thought. Instead of being found in just 12 states, it’s now presumed to be active in 30 states.
It’s not just pregnant women who need to be concerned about the virus. Doctors say the virus is also associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is a disorder that causes the body to attack its own nerves, causing paralysis. A new study also links Zika to a second autoimmune disorder called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. It is said to resemble multiple sclerosis and involves swelling of the brain and spinal cord.
Reports are that researchers are on track with a goal to begin a clinical trial for a vaccine in September. They’ve also screened dozens of drugs as possible treatments, and 15 have been identified for further research.
According to the CDC, there have been about 350 cases of the virus in the continental U.S., most due to people traveling to places where the virus is active. There are currently no reported cases of mosquito-transmitted Zika.
In February, the Obama administration asked congress for $1.9 million to fund the fight against Zika. However, to date, congress hasn’t approved that federal funding. Last week, the White House said it was redirecting $589 million in Ebola money toward the Zika cause.