Zika Outbreak Response Heightened in U.S.
States across the South are putting measures in place to prevent the disease from spreading.
Several U.S. states, including Florida and Texas, are taking action to reduce mosquito infestations and create plans in case of a major outbreak of Zika virus in their areas.
In Florida, this includes a state-run Zika hotline and an increased number of test kits to distribute to local health officials.
This week, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health briefed reporters on how U.S. agencies are modifying their approach to the Zika virus.
Overall, the effects of the virus are worse than they had initially expected, as reported by ABC News.
"We continue to be learning pretty much every day and most of what we're learning is not reassuring," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC.
According to data provided by the CDC, as of April 6, there were 346 cases of the Zika virus in the U.S. Nearly all of them were contracted while people were traveling in areas where the virus is known to be spreading rampantly, including large portions of Central and South America.
Public health officials are closely monitoring and responding to infected mosquito populations -- one of the largest spreaders of the disease. There is major concern over the risk posed by mosquitoes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. With the warmer seasons approaching, experts say the number of infections in that region could increase by hundreds of thousands.
The virus primarily poses a threat for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant. Although the vast majority of reported cases have been tied to mosquitoes, scientists have concluded that Zika can be transmitted sexually.
The virus may cause certain birth defects, including microcephaly, a condition marked by an abnormally small head and brain damage. And just this week, it was reported that some people infected with the Zika virus may develop a rare neurological disorder similar to multiple sclerosis.
More conclusive research on whether or not Zika causes microcephaly is expected to come out later this year.
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Top photo: Dr. Anthony Fauci (L), director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, and Dr. Anne Schuchat (R), Principal Deputy Director for Centers of Disease Control Prevention, speak about the Zika virus at the White House in Washington April 11, 2016. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)