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Public health officials have issued their most somber warning about the Zika virus yet.
At a White House press event Monday, Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said:
“Most of what we’ve learned is not reassuring. Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought.”
USA Today reports that Schuchat said the Zika virus has been linked to a broader array of birth defects, including premature birth and blindness. The virus had already been linked to microcephaly, a condition that causes children to be born with abnormally small heads and brains.
Additionally, the mosquito species known to transmit the virus, Aedes aegypti, has a larger geographic range than was previously known. The species is present in all or part of 30 states, rather than 12 states as thought before.
Officials have also learned that the virus can be transmitted sexually.
USA Today reports that Monday’s renewed warnings came a week after the White House told Congress it was shifting $510 million that had been designated for fighting the Ebola virus in Africa to instead fight the Zika virus.
President Barack Obama had previously requested $1.9 billion from Congress for Zika virus efforts including vaccine development, but Republicans held up the funds and accused the Democratic president of politicizing the outbreak.
According to the CDC’s latest numbers, released last week, 346 cases of Zika virus have been reported in the 50 U.S. states. All are associated with travel rather than being locally acquired.
An additional 354 cases of Zika virus have been reported in U.S. territories — Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa. Only three of those cases are associated with travel, however. The other 351 cases were locally acquired.
For more information, be sure to check out “Before You Travel: What to Know About Protecting Yourself From Zika Virus.”
What’s your take on the CDC’s latest warning? Do you think the Zika virus is a serious threat in the U.S.? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.