WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama spoke with his Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff to discuss shared concerns over the recent spread of the Zika virus in the Western Hemisphere.
“The leaders agreed on the importance of collaborative efforts to deepen our knowledge, advance research, and accelerate work to develop better vaccines and other technologies to control the virus,” the White House said after Obama’s phone call.
Obama and Rousseff agreed to continue to prioritise building national, regional, and global capacity to combat infectious disease threats more broadly.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Member Tom Carper and Chairman Ron Johnson have written to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden asking for more information about federal efforts to address the potential threat posed by this virus.
“Just like with our response to Ebola, our response to Zika must be an all-hands-on-deck effort. It is also important that the federal government continue to explore any possible links between Zika and other serious maladies,” Carper said.
The reports of the spread of this virus, and the debilitating and life threatening conditions that it may be causing, are very concerning – especially considering the potential threat it poses to expectant mothers and their unborn children, he said.
“The Zika virus has left tragedy in its wake, and while federal agencies are beginning to focus on the emerging threat of the vi-rus, more must be done,” Johnson said.
Since last May, the Zika virus, originally believed to cause minor physical symptoms such as fever, has spread at an alarming rate throughout a number of Central and South American countries, as well as Puerto Rico.
This recent outbreak has coincided with a large uptick in cases of microcephaly, a developmental condition in which affected children are born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains.
Though no official connection has yet been made between the Zika virus and microcephaly, both Brazilian officials and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified several cases where children born with microcephaly also tested positive for the Zika virus.