Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, says all of the Zika infections in the United States were contracted outside the country. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)
NIH’s Fauci: No Zika infections contracted within U.S.
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, said on Friday (January 29) officials know of no one in the United States who has contracted Zika virus inside the U.S.
“To our knowledge, no one has been bitten by a mosquito in the United States having never left the United States and got it,” he told a group gathered in Washington, D.C. “In Puerto Rico, it’s very interesting, because Puerto Rico is not part of the states of the United States, but it is a territory. It has happened in Puerto Rico. So Puerto Rico there has been that local transmission,” Fauci said during an appearance at a luncheon held by the Economic Club in Washington.
An Illinois male resident who traveled to Colombia is the U.S. state’s third case of the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus, health officials said on Friday.
Earlier this month, department officials reported that two pregnant Illinois residents who recently traveled to countries where the Zika virus was found had tested positive for the virus.
Zika is now present in 23 countries and territories in the Americas. Brazil, the hardest-hit country, has reported around 3,700 cases of the devastating birth defect called microcephaly that are strongly suspected to be related to Zika.
The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO), stung by criticism that it reacted too slowly to West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, is convening an emergency meeting on Monday (February 1) to help determine its response to the spread of the virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has activated an emergency operations center staffed around the clock to address Zika, agency officials told Reuters.
The agency grew more confident of a link between microcephaly and Zika in the middle of January, after it conducted its own tests on tissue samples from two stillborn babies and two babies who died shortly after birth.
All four of the microcephaly cases from Brazil were positive for Zika. A genetic analysis showed the virus from the tissue samples matched the strain circulating in Brazil.
The test results prompted the CDC’s travel warning on Jan. 15, which advised pregnant women to avoid affected countries.
“The issue that’s the real issue is the pregnancy issue, and that should not be taken lightly, because if there is indeed, and again evidence is mounting, that there is a true connection, that’s something that has to be taken very seriously, which is the reason why the CDC did something they don’t usually do — they said, you know, if you’re pregnant that we tell you, just think seriously about postponing your travel to these regions,” Fauci said.
There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, which is like dengue and causes mild fever, rash and red eyes. An estimated 80 percent of people infected have no symptoms, meaning it can be hard to tell if a pregnant woman has been infected.