Zika outbreaks likely in US, says top health official

The 350 US cases so far were infected abroad, says Dr Anthony Fauci, but the mosquito that carries the virus is present in about 30 US states

The US is likely to see outbreaks of the Zika virus, with perhaps dozens or scores of people affected, according to the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The US has seen more than 350 cases of people infected abroad but has yet to confirm a case where someone was infected within its borders. That is likely to change, said Dr Anthony Fauci on Sunday.

It is likely we will have what is called a local outbreak, he said on Fox News Sunday.

The Zika outbreak was first detected in Brazil last year and is spreading through the Americas. It has been linked to thousands of cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect marked by unusually small head size which often indicates poor brain development. In February, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency.

Zika, which is spread by mosquitoes and through sexual contact, can give adults the paralyzing Guillain-Barr syndrome. The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which primarily transmits the disease, is present in about 30 US states.

Fauci said he expected to see someone bitten by a mosquito in the US contract Zika but did not expect a large number of people to fall ill.

It would not be surprising at all if not likely that were going to see a bit of that, he said. Were talking about scores of cases, dozens of cases, at most.

He also raised the prospect that other neurological ailments could be eventually linked to Zika, which he called disturbing.

There are only individual case reports of significant neurological damage to people not just the fetuses but an adult that would get infected. Things that they call meningoencephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain and the covering around the brain, spinal cord damage due to what we call myelitis.

So far they look unusual, but at least weve seen them and thats concerning.

Fauci also pressed the administrations case for budgeting $1.9bn in emergency funds to fight the virus. Some Republicans have agreed.

We have to act now, he said. I cant wait to start developing a vaccine.

Still, Fauci refrained from recommending that US women avoid becoming pregnant because of fear of giving birth to a baby with microcephaly.

Right now in the US they should not be that concerned. We do not have local outbreaks, he said.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/17/us-zika-outbreaks-likely-world-health-organization