The Zika virus outbreak which began about a year ago in Brazil, is now thought to pose a greater danger to Americans than was previously predicted, states an article on bbc.com.
In a recent statement made at the White House, Dr. Anne Schuchat of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) informed journalists that experts have now found Zika to be linked to a broader set of complications in pregnancy than previously thought, including premature birth and eye conditions, and is not restricted to causing microcephaly.
The mosquito that is responsible for carrying the virus and infecting individuals through bites, the Aedes aegypti, is also present in more continental U.S states than previously known. It was thought the mosquito was present in twelve states, but now experts are saying that number could be as high as thirty.
American officials are hoping that the virus, which can be transmitted through infected mosquitoes but also sexual contact, doesn’t go through widespread local transmission without the country being prepared for it.
The CDC states that there are currently 346 confirmed cases of Zika in the continental United States, with one of the hardest areas hit being Puerto Rico, where the number of Zika cases doubles every week.
While a vaccine to treat the virus is in the works, it is not yet available for use. Initial trials are said to likely start this coming September, and will extend into 2017.
Dr Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is quoted by the BBC as saying,
“The very, very best scenario” would be a vaccine ready for the general public by the beginning of 2018.”
In general, says Dr. Fauci, the U.S needs to speed up funding of research for vaccine development and treatment of the virus, in order to stay ahead of the game.
This February, the first US case of locally transmitted Zika, where the virus was spread through sexual contact, was reported in Dallas, Texas.