fact sheet Zika Virus Zika Virus The March of Dimes strongly supports proactive, aggressive efforts to slow the spread of Zika virus, which can cause severe birth defects among infants born to women infected while pregnant. Zika virus is a member of the flavivirus family, which also includes yellow fever, chikungunya, and dengue fever. First identified in 1947, Zika infection usually causes mild, flu-like symptoms that get better on their own. Key Points Key Points • Zika virus causes mild illness in most people, but can cause serious birth defects among babies born to women infected while pregnant. In 2015, however, health officials in South America identified a sharp increase in cases of microcephaly of babies born to women infected with Zika during pregnancy. Microcephaly is a serious birth defect in which infants are born with abnormally small heads and brain damage. • There is no treatment for Zika infection or the birth defects it causes. • Zika virus has spread rapidly through South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. More than 20 countries now face Zika epidemics. There is currently no treatment for Zika infection or for the microcephaly or the brain damage it causes. While work has already begun toward a vaccine, it is unlikely that a vaccine will be ready for use in large populations for at least two years, and possibly much longer. • The lifetime cost of treating a child with microcephaly is estimated to be more than $10 million. Zika virus is likely to spread to the U.S. in 2016 Zika virus is likely to spread to the U.S. in 2016 Zika virus has spread rapidly through South and Central America and the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico. Experts expect many cases of travel-related Zika infection in the U.S. throughout 2016, and have predicted that it is very possible the virus will become endemic across much of the U.S., meaning that it will be spread from person to person by mosquitoes. • While research is under way on a Zika vaccine, a vaccine is not expected to be ready for the general public for at least two years, and possibly much longer. • Congress should act immediately to provide the resources needed to slow the spread of Zika virus across the U.S. Aggressive action can slow Aggressive action can slow Zika’s Federal, state and local officials are devising plans to educate the public, control mosquitoes, and accelerate research of vaccines and treatment. Additional funding is needed to allow this work to happen as quickly as possible to reduce the spread of Zika across the U.S. New resources should be provided immediately without raiding other vital public health priorities. Zika’s spread spread Contact information: Contact information: For more, contact Cynthia Pellegrini at firstname.lastname@example.org (202) 659-1800 The March of Dimes urges lawmakers to The March of Dimes urges lawmakers to provide new funding range of efforts to slow or halt the spread of Zika virus across the United States. range of efforts to slow or halt the spread of Zika virus across the United States. provide new funding immediately immediately for the full for the full The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose volunteers and staff work to improve the health of infants and children by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education and advocacy. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.org marchofdimes.org or nacersano.org nacersano.org.