US health officials have concluded that infection with the Zika virus during pregnancy causes the birth defect microcephaly, a finding that experts hope will refocus attention on efforts to stop infections, Reuters reported.
“There isn’t any doubt that Zika causes microcephaly,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was quoted as saying in a conference on Wednesday.
US and world health officials have been saying for weeks that mounting scientific evidence points to the mosquito-borne virus as the likely cause of the alarming rise in microcephaly in Zika-hit areas of Brazil.
It had not been declared as the definitive cause until now.
The announcement comes at a critical time for the Obama Administration, which has been urging the Republican-controlled Congress to grant nearly US$1.9 billion in emergency funds to fight the virus.
The virus has begun to affect Puerto Rico and is expected to hit parts of the US with the coming of warmer weather.
In a temporary fix, the White House said last week that it would redirect US$589 million in allocated funds to prepare for Zika’s arrival in the continental US.
The declaration of Zika as a cause of microcephaly may make it harder for lawmakers to deny the request for emergency funding, Reuters noted.
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