As the promise of a wet and hot summer emerges across the United States there is a growing concern about the Zika virus. Officials at the CDC are warning that the spread of the virus and its related health issues are greater than people think. The Zika virus is prevalent in many Latin American countries, especially Brazil, where it has been linked to serious birth defects. These defects include an unusually small head (known as microencephalopathy), neurological issues, eye problems and developmental delays. Now scientists are exploring the possibility that the Zika virus infection can also lead to brain inflammation, nerve damage and paralysis.
The virus is spread by the mosquito and can be passed from an expectant mother to her unborn baby. Medical researchers have also determined that the virus can be spread through the semen of an infected male carrier. There have been confirmed cases of Zika in California, the southern portion of the U.S. and Connecticut, with Georgia listing 11 confirmed cases.
“Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at a White House briefing.
As cases of Zika infection are also spreading in other countries, governments are scrambling to confront the virus. Here in the United States, President Obama is pushing for an additional $1.9 billion to combat the disease internationally but the request has stalled in the Republican-controlled Congress. The administration has announced it is shifting $589 million in funds left over from the Ebola crisis to combat Zika. However, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health has stated that this is “not enough to get the job done. It’s just a temporary stop gap.”
The NIH is tasked with developing an effective vaccine for Zika which it plans to unveil by the fall of this year.