Currently, there is no treatment for Zika, the virus that has become an epidemic throughout Latin America and infected over 100 Americans. But that could change soon.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says a vaccine could be ready for human testing in the next few months.
“We will have a vaccine ready to go into humans to test—not to distribute—but to test for safety and whether it induces a response that you can predict will be protective,” he said to the BBC. “That phase 1 trial I believe will likely start towards the end of the summer or early fall.”
The BBC points out, however, that if the incidence of the virus has begun to wane when the vaccine becomes ready, it may be difficult to obtain enough test subjects. There is also limited knowledge about flaviviruses (Zika’s genus of virus).
Meanwhile, the White House is planning on hosting a one-day Zika Readiness Action Plan Summit with various national, state, and local officials in order to discuss the specifics of the virus, its suspected effects on pregnant women (and the unconfirmed connection with microcephaly in babies), and approaches to containing it. Of particular concern is Puerto Rico, which has already seen 117 confirmed cases.
“We’ve had surprises,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat in an interview with Reuters, noting the several suspected cases of sexual transmission. “We’re in a posture of knowing that time is precious and collaboration is essential.”
“The best way to protect yourself from Zika is to protect yourself and you family from mosquitos likely to be carrying Zika,” Schuchat wrote during a Q&A on the White House’s official Tumblr on Thursday evening.
“We recommend pregnant women delay travel to areas where the Zika virus is spreading through mosquitoes.”
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Image of Sao Paulo lab via Getty.