Is the Zika Virus a Threat to the United States?

More cases of the Zika virus have been confirmed in the city of Miami, Fla., leading to concerns over a nationwide outbreak in the United States.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there likely won’t be an outbreak across America, however, there will be smaller sections of the country where the disease could spread.

“There will be pockets in the country, such as what we’re seeing in Florida now and what we might see in Texas and other Gulf Coast states, where you could have an outbreak that hangs around and is sustained for several months or longer,” Fauci said.

“The issue is and the challenge is going to be to prevent them from becoming sustained and from becoming disseminated. It’s not surprising that these local transmissions have occurred because… we have 1,600 or more travel-related cases,” he said.

Outside the continental United States, Puerto Rico has seen a dramatic rise in Zika cases. However, Fauci said there are differences in America and Puerto Rico versus Brazil.

“The conditions in the United States, the lack of crowding comparable to what we see in those countries, the ability to be able to have access to air conditioning, screens on doors and screens on windows are going to be conditions that are not amenable to a nationwide outbreak.”

The NIAID director said work is being done to create a vaccine to combat the virus, similar to the Inovio product.

“Our plan is to have a phase I study, which looks for safety and whether the vaccine induces a response that you would predict would be protected,” Fauci said. “Probably by the end of the year we’ll know if it’s safe. If it is, we’ll go on to a much larger efficacy study in regions where there are a lot of infections, likely in South America and Central America.”