US warns of tough battle against Zika

‘This will not be easy’ health official says

The battle against the Zika Virus will not be easy to win, the U.S. cautioned Monday.

At the core of the issue is the mosquito that spreads the virus. The Aedes mosquito is known to be an aggressive daytime biter that lives outside and indoors, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Deputy Director Anne Schuchat told reporters at the White House.

“This will not be easy,” she said. “That said, we’re working very aggressively with areas where the virus is spreading and areas where it may spread to make sure that they’re prepared.”

Still, she said that the U.S. is “optimistic” that there won’t be large-scale outbreaks domestically “but we’re not betting on it and we want to do everything we can to make sure that we don’t have wide-spread transmission here.”

Complicating efforts to staunch the virus, the current test to identify Zika infection “isn’t perfect”, Schuchat added.

The current test can possibly misidentify a case of Zika as Dengue fever due to their similarities, prompting the need for an additional round of testing, said National Institute of Allergy and Infections Disease Director Anthony Fauci.

“All of that takes time and highly specialized tests,” he said, noting that the institute and the CDC are working on a test that can immediately identify whether a person has Zika or not.

The virus has spread throughout Latin America, and Brazil has been particularly hard hit. The country reported its first case last May.

Although 80 percent of cases do not result in any symptoms, WHO officials estimate that 1.5 million people have been infected in Brazil through the end of last month.

The disease is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and is believed to be linked to microcephaly – a congenital condition that is characterized by newborns with unusually small heads and incomplete brain development.

“We know that this is a really scary time for pregnant women,” Schuchat said.

The Obama administration is preparing to ask lawmakers to appropriate more than $1.8 million in emergency funding to help thwart the virus’ spread, and develop a vaccine.

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