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Debate Grows Around House GOP's Zika-Funding Plan

JUN 27, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
Uveitis is a condition of the inflammation of the eyes, a potentially severe eye condition. Although uveitis can be easily treated with eye drops, injections, or intravenous treatment, the disease may cause cataracts and high blood pressure in the eyes. Joao Furtado, MD, PhD, professor and infectious disease specialist at University of Sao Paulo was the lead author of the article that detailed the 40-year-old male patient’s condition, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. As detailed in the article, although the patient has made a full recovery, doctors are unsure whether others stricken with uveitis as a result of a Zika infection will have similar prognosis. The NIH is currently carrying out a study to help determine the full scope of a Zika virus infection.
 
The NIH has collaborated with a national scientific research organization that is linked to the Brazil Ministry of Health, Fundacao Oswaldo Cruz-Fiocruz (Fiocruz), to conduct a multi-national study that aims to calculate the risk that a Zika infection poses on pregnant women, their fetuses, and infants. The Zika in Infants and Pregnancy (ZIP) study will evaluate 10,000 women 15 years of age and older in their first trimester of pregnancy, from regions with active Zika transmission, such as Puerto Rico, Brazil, and Colombia. Those who are infected with Zika will be put under close observation in order to determine the outcomes of the infection in both the mother and fetus. Pregnancy progression will be analyzed and the outcomes of infected women will be compared to those who did not contract Zika. Researchers will be recording the rates of miscarriages, premature births, microcephaly, and malformations of the nervous system, among other things. After birth, the infants of the women included in the study will also be observed for one year. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), stated, “This large prospective study promises to provide important new data that will help guide the medical and public health responses to the Zika virus epidemic.”
 
Currently, 61 countries and territories worldwide are experiencing active Zika transmission, including Mexico, most Central American and Caribbean regions, and South America. At the moment, there are 820 imported cases of Zika virus infection within the continental United States (including Hawaii), and 1860 cases in American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. A total of 265 of the cases in the continental United States are pregnant women, as are 216 cases in the affected American territories.
 
It is likely that those already carrying the virus, due to travel to affected areas or sexual contact with those who reside in, or have traveled to, the affected areas, may infect the mosquito vector populations in currently unaffected areas in the continental United States. 
 
NIAID will be funding ZIP along with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
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