U.S. Health Officials Admit Zika Virus is 'Scarier Than We Initially Thought'

Zika Virus Scarier Than Officials Originally Thought
Zika virus is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito
Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty

04/11/2016 AT 10:15 PM EDT

The Zika virus is looking to be more complex – and more dangerous – the more health authorities learn about it.

At a White House press briefing on Monday, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, explained the Center's latest research into the widespread disease.

"Most of what we've learned is not reassuring. Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought," said Schuchat.





There are 346 confirmed cases of Zika in the continental United States – 32 are in pregnant women and seven were sexually transmitted. All are present in people who had traveled to Zika-prone areas, reports USA Today.

U.S. Health Officials Admit Zika Virus is 'Scarier Than We Initially Thought'| Medical Conditions

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"While we absolutely hope we don't see widespread local transmission in the continental U.S., we need... to be ready for that," said Schuchat at the briefing.

The virus, which is linked to the microcephaly birth defect, can actually lead to a number of different conditions in babies, including premature birth and blindness.

U.S. Health Officials Admit Zika Virus is 'Scarier Than We Initially Thought'| Medical Conditions

A researcher places a mosquito on a petri dish before analyzing it in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil

Felipe Dana / AP


Officials also announced that the mosquito carrier, the Aedes aegypti, is now present in a larger geographic region of the United States.

"Instead of about 12 states, where the mosquito is present, we believe about 30 states have the mosquito present," explained Schuchat.

U.S. Health Officials Admit Zika Virus is 'Scarier Than We Initially Thought'| Medical Conditions

A researcher examines Aedes aegypti mosquitos in Brazil

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The CDC suspects that Zika is rapidly spreading in Puerto Rico, where there are hundreds of thousands of suspected cases – affecting countless babies.

On Wednesday, the CDC announced it is giving $3.9 million worth of emergency funding to the United States territory.

"This information is, of course, of concern," said Schuchat.
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