As summer nears, officials warn to protect against Zika virus

WASHINGTON — Public health officials are raising concerns about the mosquito-borne Zika virus as warm summer months approach.

Efforts are underway nationwide to prepare for any outbreaks of the virus, which has been linked to serious health problems in newborn babies.

“I do not anticipate widespread Zika in the United States,” said Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease expert at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

No local mosquito-borne Zika virus cases have been reported in the U.S., but there have been travel-associated cases.

“We’ll get some introductions. There will be returning travelers or people from those affected countries coming to this county and bringing Zika with them, and there may be a little spread around some of them,” Schaffner said.

President Barack Obama has asked Congress to provide $1.9 billion to prepare the nation against the virus.

Even before the money is approved, Schaffner says, public health officials in the states are working “overtime” on Zika preparedness.

“I think the responses will be quick and very comprehensive,” Schaffner said.

The Zika virus has already spread through much of South America and the Caribbean.

When mosquito season arrives, Schaffner says, people should emphasize prevention.

“As they say, DEET is the new fragrance this year, and I think they ought to be using insect repellent day in and day out,” Schaffner said.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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