The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said the U.S. needs funding to provide the protection that Americans deserve against the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus that's been linked to serious birth defects in Latin America and has infected hundreds in Puerto Rico.
"Zika is already in the U.S. and territories,” said Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. “It's already infected hundreds of Americans who've traveled to Zika-affected places. It's already spreading widely in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the U.S. territories. We expect it to continue to spread."
Frieden said the most urgent issue is to reduce the risk to pregnant women and their developing fetuses. The Zika virus has been associated with severe birth defects in newborns.
Local, state and federal government officials, health experts, pharmaceutical companies and others are gathering Friday at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta to prepare for the likelihood of mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus in some parts of the United States.
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa already are experiencing active Zika transmission. The mosquito that carries the virus is abundant in the southern coastal states.