A top infectious disease expert is reportedly warning that mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus could soon infect Americans within the U.S., a notable shift as all domestic cases so far have been associated with travel.
Over the weekend, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said local transmission could occur in the next “month or so,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
It’s significant because The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that while there are 544 cases of travel-associated cases of Zika virus, none have thus far been locally acquired. Zika virus outbreaks had occurred in areas of Africa, the Pacific Islands, and Southeast Asia prior to 2015, but last year, there were confirmed infections in Brazil. Since then, the virus has spread to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.
The Zika virus primarily spreads through mosquito bites, and while it is rarely deadly, common symptoms include fever, rash, and joint point. Infection is far more problematic for pregnant women, potentially causing a serious birth defect called microcephaly.
The House of Representatives last week passed a $622.1 million bill to control the spread of Zika, while also requiring that the expense be fully offset with spending cuts elsewhere. The Obama administration, meanwhile, had requested $1.9 billion. The Senate approved a $1.1 billion funding bill and the two chambers are expected to aim for a compromise.