The number of women potentially infected by the Zika virus appears to be growing in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says more than 150 pregnant women in America appear to be currently infected with Zika virus. In addition, there are over 120 women infected by the Zika virus in the U.S. territories like Puerto Rico.
The CDC has been closely monitoring all pregnant women in the U.S. and its territories who have lab tests which are suggestive of potential infections by the Zika virus. However, CDC officials say that fewer than 12 of the pregnancies have actually had Zika-related complications. It should be noted that many of the pregnancies have yet to reach full term, so the CDC cannot say about the positive outcomes for all women who may have the virus.
“We don’t have full information yet on all of the outcomes,” said Margaret Honein, who is the CDC’s chief of its birth defects branch. The frustrating issue for the CDC and American citizens is being able to nail down the precise risk that the virus poses to pregnant women. This is one of the main goals of the CDC’s tracking of the pregnancies. So far it appears that birth defects such as unusually small brains, a condition called microcephaly, are the major Zika risk.
The CDC’s understanding of the virus is ongoing. Previously, the CDC only publicly confirmed on the women whose Zika virus infection had been confirmed by both positive lab tests and the symptoms associated with infection. However, official indicate that women do not necessarily need to display symptoms of the Zika virus in order to have complications from the virus. As a result, the CDC decided to expand its public reporting, with women who have tested positive in the lab now included in the result.
The difference in reporting standard is the major reason why it looks like the number of cases of Zika virus in America has tripled. In a press briefing last Friday, the CDC’s spokesperson said “As the data accumulated about the risk of asymptomatic infections, it seemed more and more important to be very transparent and share publicly the numbers, the full number of pregnant women at risk of adverse outcomes associated with Zika.”
The U.S. pregnant women who are being monitored by the CDC are not all symptomatic. Only 49 percent of women reported symptoms consistent with the Zika virus. These include things like rash and fever. The CDC so far cannot confirm whether anyone has contracted the Zika virus from a mosquito bit in the continental United States. Naturally the government and CDC are concerned that there will eventually be cases that originated in the continental United States, especially since there are areas where mosquito-borne disease have been transmitted, like dengue fever.
Meanwhile, the Senate is being criticized for its slow response to the growing crisis. President Obama requested almost $2 billion to fight the Zika virus in the USA two months ago. However, Republicans in the Senate held up the vote, arguing over whether funds should be taken from other prevention funds in the name of anti-spending ideology. The Republicans advanced their own plan, which allocates just $1.1 billion to fight Zika, with riders relaxing many Senate rules. House Republicans passed a bill that had riders relaxing standards for pesticides. While pregnant women continue to be concerned about the disease, Congress appears to want a fight with the President over money.