Zika is projected to enter the U.S. this summer, but the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t anticipate the virus to be widespread throughout the country.
The virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is typically found in the South and Southwest — though it can also be spread through sexual contact.
In a report by the New York Times, the CDC said it is focusing its mosquito control efforts to limit the likelihood of local transmission on six states and one county: California, Texas, Florida, Hawaii, Arizona and Louisiana, as well as Los Angeles county.
The CDC issued a 58-page plan last week outlining its draft response to potential Zika transmission within the continental U.S..
The plan stated that based on observations of similar viruses, including chikungunya and dengue (which only saw local transmissions in South Florida and southernmost Texas), Zika isn’t expected to spread across the entire country. Instead, the CDC said that Texas, Florida and Hawaii are the most likely to experience local transmission.
“Everything we’ve seen from dengue and chikungunya suggests that it will not be a severe problem” in the continental U.S., CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden told the Times. “Our best guess” is that “we’ll see a singleton case that we won’t be able to identify the source for, and possibly some clusters — maybe in the Florida Keys or Brownsville” in Texas.
The virus is known to cause a birth defect called microcephaly, in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains, and has also been linked to temporary paralysis in adults.
Zika has ravaged Brazil (as well as much of Latin America and the Caribbean) over the past year, and health experts don’t expect it to have the same devastating effects in the continental U.S. However, even a small cluster of cases can cause public health problems, particularly if the virus hits pregnant women.
“Even though the percentages and the likelihoods are incredibly low, the outcome is awful,” Dr. Tim F. Jones, epidemiologist for the state of Tennessee, told the Times.
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