Zika is coming–What Will Congress Do About it?

Congress is undergoing pressure to pass an emergency package to fund efforts to combat the Zika virus– some officials are concerned that the virus could be transmitted for the first time in the United States later this summer.

It has now been three months since President Obama first asked lawmakers for funds to combat the virus, and even though they haven’t done anything yet, the Senate is expected to vote next week on a deal.

So far, nobody in the United States has gotten the virus as a result of a mosquito bite, but nearly 500 people have returned have with symptoms of the virus after traveling to areas in South America.

Zika, which is rarely fatal, tends to show minor symptoms such as fever or joint pain.  It can also cause problems in pregnant women in the form of a serious birth defect which makes the baby’s head smaller and also has a smaller brain that may not have developed fully.

There are currently no vaccines for the virus, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allery and Infectious Diseases, told CBS news that the first phase of vaccine trials will begin in September, but it may take a long time to see if it is actually working.  It could be as early as 2018, or even a few years later than that.

The first death as a result of Zika was reported in Puerto Rico at the end of April.  The World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern, and they predict that 3-4 million people in the Americas could get the disease this year.

Mosquito season is in full swing in the United States, and Fauci warns that there could be local outbreaks soon, and is urging Congress to approve new funding to prepare for the virus.  “I think there is a very good chance that we’ll have the same sort of restricted local outbreaks, particularly in areas of the country where they have robust mosquito activity…” Fauci told CBS.

Source: CBS News

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