State officials call for funding, better response to Zika virus - WFSB 3 Connecticut

State officials call for funding, better response to Zika virus

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(AP photo) (AP photo)

State lawmakers, health officials and other local leaders are calling on Congress to make a more concerted effort to combat a virus that a United Nations official recently declared was "spreading explosively."

On Friday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal will be joined by the Spanish American Merchants Association in Hartford, Acting Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino and others to call for more funding and a comprehensive health response to the Zika virus.

"The Zika epidemic is an exploding public health crisis that experts seem unable comprehend or control," Blumenthal said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel alert that advised pregnant women to avoid travel to Puerto Rico along with 24 other countries and territories.

Some medical experts said the mosquito-born virus has been associated with thousands of birth defects in recent months.

"Fortunately, many who are infected suffer only mild symptoms, but for many pregnant women, the consequences of this virus have been catastrophic, causing severe, life-long birth defects in thousands of children," Blumenthal said. "The current response-advising pregnant women to avoid large swaths of Latin America and the Caribbean is both impractical and insufficient, particularly as the virus is expected to spread across the United States this summer."

Blumenthal said an immediate all hands on deck response was needed with robust funding to expedite research into a vaccine. Testing and and other measures also need to be taken to slow the spread of the virus.

Cases have been reported in the U.S., including one in neighboring Massachusetts.

A news conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. in Hartford.

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