Q&A: UA expert talks Zika virus and its threat to Arizona

The Zika virus made headlines again this week as lawmakers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began making announcements that the virus may be more severe than first thought.

U.S. lawmakers approved a bill on Tuesday that White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest described as “two months late and $1.9 billion short.”

The bill will provide financial incentives for companies to develop drugs and vaccines against the virus.

Wednesday brought an announcement from the CDC: They deemed the Zika virus responsible for serious birth defects such as microcephaly, a condition where improper brain development results in a baby being born with an abnormally small head.

“Never before in history has there been a situation where a bite from a mosquito can result in a devastating malformation,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director for the CDC, told the New York Times on Wednesday.

Arizona saw its first confirmed case of the virus in March, when a woman from Maricopa County, who had recently traveled abroad, contracted the virus.

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By Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun Technician
Ce Zhang gets ready to examine a six-well plate containing pluripotent stem cell colonies under a microscope at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering in Baltimore, Maryland on Tuesday, March 1. The Zika virus has been making headlines again this week, this time in Maricopa County.

“While this is a first, the risk of this virus spreading throughout Arizona is very low,” said Cara Christ, director for the Arizona Department of Health Services. “Arizona’s public health system has a plan in place and we are ready to rapidly respond.”

To gain more insight on the latest information regarding the threat of the Zika virus, the Daily Wildcat interviewed Kacey Ernst, a UA epidemiology professor who is currently in Jamaica working to develop clinical research studies for the Zika virus with the Jamaica Ministry of Health.

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Originally appeared at: http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/article/2016/04/ua-expert-talks-zika-virus-and-its-threat-to-arizona