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US officials: The more we know about Zika, the scarier it is

Published:Wednesday | April 13, 2016 | 4:00 AM
Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Center for Disease Control, right, speaks about the Zika virus, accompanied by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH/NIAID, during the news briefing at the White House, Washington, on Monday.

WASHINGTON (AP):

The more researchers learn about the Zika virus, the scarier it appears, federal health officials said, as they urge more money for mosquito control and development of vaccines and treatments.

Scientists increasingly believe the Zika virus sweeping through Latin America and the Caribbean causes devastating defects in fetal brains if women become infected during

pregnancy.

"Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought," Dr Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at a White House briefing.

And while experts don't expect widespread outbreaks

in the continental US, "we absolutely need to be ready," she said.

President Barack Obama has sought about $1.9 billion in emergency money to help fight the Zika epidemic internationally and to prepare in case the virus spreads here, but the request has stalled in the GOP-controlled Congress. Last week, the administration said it would use $589 million in funds left over from the Ebola outbreak for some of that work.

But that "is not enough for us to get the job done," said Dr Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, whose agency hopes to have a possible vaccine ready for first-stage safety testing in early fall. "It's just a temporary stopgap," he said.