CDC Says Zika Virus is ‘Scarier Than We Initially Thought’

RECIFE, BRAZIL - JANUARY 26:  Aedes aegypti mosquitos are seen in a lab at the Fiocruz institute on January 26, 2016 in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. The mosquito transmits the Zika virus and is being studied at the institute. In the last four months, authorities have recorded close to 4,000 cases in Brazil in which the mosquito-borne Zika virus may have led to microcephaly in infants. The ailment results in an abnormally small head in newborns and is associated with various disorders including decreased brain development. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Zika virus outbreak is likely to spread throughout nearly all the Americas. At least twelve cases in the United States have now been confirmed by the CDC. (PHOTO CREDIT: Mario Tama/Getty Images)
RECIFE, BRAZIL – JANUARY 26: Aedes aegypti mosquitos are seen in a lab at the Fiocruz institute on January 26, 2016 in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. The mosquito transmits the Zika virus and is being studied at the institute. In the last four months, authorities have recorded close to 4,000 cases in Brazil in which the mosquito-borne Zika virus may have led to microcephaly in infants. The ailment results in an abnormally small head in newborns and is associated with various disorders including decreased brain development. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Zika virus outbreak is likely to spread throughout nearly all the Americas. At least twelve cases in the United States have now been confirmed by the CDC. (PHOTO CREDIT: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Public health officials said Monday they’ve learned a lot more about Zika since the Obama administration made a $1.9 billion request to Congress to combat the mosquito-borne virus, and are increasingly concerned about its potential impact on the United States.

“Most of what we’ve learned is not reassuring,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Everything we know about this virus seems to be scarier than we initially thought.”

She said the virus has been linked to a broader array of birth defects throughout a longer period of pregnancy. The potential geographic range of the mosquitoes transmitting the virus also reaches farther northward, and now includes 30 states. And it can be spread sexually, causing the CDC to update its guidance to couples.

But researchers don’t know how many babies of women infected with Zika will end up with birth defects, or what drugs and vaccines may be effective.

“This is a very unusual virus that we can’t pretend to know everything about it that we need to know,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The assessment, delivered to reporters at the White House Monday, comes the week after the White House informed Congress it was moving more than $510 million previously earmarked for Ebola prevention toward Zika prevention efforts.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Gregory Korte