The United States can expect to see outbreaks of the Zika virus says Dr.Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
While the U.S. has already seen more than 350 cases of people who were infected abroad and returned to the country, there haven’t been any recorded cases of someone infected within its borders. But those days may be limited, said Fauci.
"It is likely we will have what is called a local outbreak," he said on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.
Since being detected in Brazil last year, the virus has spread through the Americas. It has been linked to thousands of cases of microcephaly, a typically rare birth defect marked by unusually small head size, which often indicates poor brain development. The World Health Organization declared a global health emergency in February.
Zika, which is spread by mosquitoes and through sexual contact, can give adults the paralyzing Guillain-Barre syndrome. The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which primarily transmits disease, is already present in about 30 U.S. states.
While Fauci does expect someone to be bitten by the mosquito here in the States, he does not expect a large number of people to become ill.
"It would not be surprising at all - if not likely - that we're going to see a bit of that," he said. "We're 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," he said. "So far they look unusual, but at least we've seen them and that's concerning."
Fauci has pressed the administration’s case for budgeting $1.9 billion dollars in emergency funds to fight the virus.
"We have to act now," he said. "I can't wait to start developing a vaccine."
Still, Fauci refrained from recommending that U.S. women avoid becoming pregnant because of fear of giving birth to a baby with microcephaly.
"Right now in the United States they should not be that concerned. We do not have local outbreaks," he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no vaccine currently exists to prevent Zika virus disease. The mosquito that carries the Zika virus mostly bites in the daytime.
The CDC recommends following typical mosquito bite preventions such as:
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
• Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
• Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
• Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. Choosing an EPA-registered repellent ensures the EPA has evaluated the product for effectiveness. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
◦ Always follow the product label instructions.
◦ Reapply insect repellent as directed.
◦ Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
◦ If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
• To protect your child from mosquito bites:
◦ Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
◦ Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old.
◦ Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
◦ Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
◦ Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
◦ Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
• Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
◦ Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last.
◦ If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
◦ Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.
Story sources: Diane Bartz, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-zika-usa-idUSKCN0XE0UV