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Zika virus scarier than initially thought: US

Tuesday, Apr 12, 2016,15:00 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Washington | The Zika virus seems to be a bit scarier than initially thought as the mosquito that spreads it is now present in about 30 American states, a top US health official has said and called for enhanced preparedness to fight the virus.

Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought. While we absolutely hope we do not see widespread local transmission in the continental US, we need the states to be ready for that, Principal Deputy Director of the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention Dr Anne Schuchat told reporters at White House yesterday.

We really want the travelling public, when they come back from the Caribbean or Latin America, to use repellent for the couple weeks after they return, because if they silently got Zika infection and get bitten by a mosquito in the continental US, that mosquito can then spread the virus, she said.

She, however, said that she does not expect there to be large outbreaks in the continental US. I cannot give a number to how many cases, but I can say that we cannot assume we are not going to have a big problem. We know with other viruses we have had bigger problems than we expected, so we are taking this very seriously, Anne said.

Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of National Health Institute said latest research has shown that the virus is linked to a broader set of complications in pregnancy, not just the microcephaly but also prematurity, eye problems and some other conditions. We have learned that the mosquito vector, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is present in a broader range of states in the Continental US.

So instead of about 12 states where the mosquito, Aedes aegypti is present, we believe about 30 states have the mosquito present. We have 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, Fauci said.

He said that this information is of concern, and CDC has been working 24/7 to protect pregnant women, support the state and local health departments that are front line of defence. We are quite concerned about Puerto Rico where the virus is spreading throughout the island. We think there could be hundreds of thousands of cases of Zika virus in Puerto Rico, and perhaps hundreds of affected babies.

We know that the pregnant women in Puerto Rico are very keen to protect themselves and to have community protection, and we are working closely with the authorities in Puerto Rico to support that response with mosquito control beginning and with the distribution of what we call Zika prevention kits for pregnant women, Fauci added.

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