The mosquito-born virus ‘Zika’ has been largely reported as a Latin-American problem , until now.
The Centers for Disease Control in the United States pulled together a gathering of over 300 local, state and federal officials to plan a strategy to handle expected clusters of the virus on the U.S. mainland.
“The mosquitoes that carry Zika virus are already active in US territories, hundreds of travelers with Zika have already returned to the continental US, and we could well see clusters of Zika virus in the continental US in the coming months,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement prior to today’s meeting. “Urgent action is needed, especially to minimize the risk of exposure during pregnancy.”
The virus has a flu-like impact on adults and children directly infected, but liquefies the brains of the unborn when the mother is infected.
In a study released this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers report tracking the development of a fetus whose mother was infected with the virus during a trip to Central America while she was three months pregnant.
With blood tests and magnetic resonance images (MRI), researchers watched as the baby’s brain essentially turned to liquid in the course of nine weeks. The woman aborted the fetus at week 21.
The infection is spread through mosquito bites and sexual contact with infected persons.
There is currently no vaccine or virus-specific treatment for Zika, but its similarity to Dengue fever may help researchers fast-track both.