Dr. Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General
You’ve probably heard news reports about Zika, a virus that’s been spreading across South and Central America as well as the Caribbean.
Zika is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes. In past outbreaks, the vast majority of people who contracted Zika didn’t experience symptoms. For those with symptoms, they were relatively mild.
Zika infection in a pregnant woman can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. Zika has also been linked to neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome in those infected, and we have learned that it can also be spread from a man to his sexual partners.We’re learning more about this virus every day. As Surgeon General, my job is to make sure that you have the information you need to stay safe and healthy.
The Zika virus is a disease spread primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito — the same type of mosquito that spreads other viruses like dengue and chikungunya.
While most people have no symptoms as all, Zika causes mild illness in some. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has established a link between Zika infection during pregnancy and serious birth defects and other poor pregnancy outcomes. We also know that there can be other serious neurological impacts in some people who are infected with Zika.
We are closely tracking and responding to outbreaks of this virus across the Americas. While we haven’t seen Zika transmission by mosquitoes in the continental United States to date, we have seen transmission in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, in addition to cases reported in Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands.
And we know that this particular mosquito lives in certain parts of the southern United States, and we now know that Zika can also spread in another type of mosquito that is present throughout much of the United States. So now is the time to prepare as the seasons change and weather gets warmer.
As President Obama said, we all have to remain vigilant when it comes to combating the spread of diseases like Zika. That’s why the President has called on Congress to provide emergency funding to combat this disease, including to:
• speed the development of a vaccine;
• allow people – especially pregnant women – to more easily get tested and get a prompt result; and
• ensure that states and communities – particularly those in the South that have experienced local outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya in the past – have the resources they need to fight the mosquito that carries this virus.
Congress needs to act now to ensure that we have the resources we need to take every step necessary to protect the American people from the Zika virus.
Since the President requested emergency funding, we’ve learned more concerning facts about this disease:
• Sexual transmission of the virus is more common than initially believed.
• The impact on fetal brain development is more stark and more serious than first understood.
• In the U.S., the geographical range of the types of mosquitos that are known to transmit Zika far exceeds our initial estimation.
• The number of countries that reported Zika to the World Health Organization has grown from 26 to 55.
We are responding to local transmission of Zika by mosquitoes in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa — and we are taking steps to prepare for any transmission within the continental United States. Right now, researchers are working hard to develop a vaccine that will prevent Zika infections.
The federal government is also working closely with the states and private partners to ensure that adequate testing capacity is available so that anyone who may be infected — especially pregnant women — can find out quickly and take steps to prevent further spread of Zika. We are also working with states to help them refine and implement Zika preparedness and response plans for their jurisdictions.
But this work takes resources. And we will need more resources to make sure that communities across our country can address a potential Zika outbreak.
That is why President Obama has requested funds to help us prevent, detect, and treat this virus. It is my hope that Congress will act quickly to provide funding so we can protect the American people from the spread of Zika.
As the summer months approach and mosquito season begins, know that there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from Zika.
For the latest information and resources on the Zika virus, please go to cdc.gov/zika.
Source: The White House.Govt
Dr. Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General