Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this week that the Zika virus is “scarier than we initially thought” and that states need to be ready for potentially widespread infections.
And the agency confirmed for the first time on Wednesday that the virus causes birth defects.
The organization said the mosquito carrying the virus may be present in about 30 states. It was previously thought to be found in a dozen U.S. states.
Last month, Kentucky officials — led by Gov. Matt Bevin — held a news conference meant to reassure the public that Zika was not a threat in the commonwealth, and that they had been preparing for potential cases. There have been three confirmed cases in Kentucky. Two were people in Louisville, and each person had recently traveled to an area affected by the virus.
Here’s what state officials said then:
Kraig Humbaugh, senior deputy commissioner for DPH, is leading efforts to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Health Secretary Vickie Yates Brown] Glisson said there have been regular webinars and conference calls between the CDC and the cabinet on its action plan concerning Zika virus. She said the state has developed a plan for communicating with residents, too.
Glisson said clinicians and hospitals have been reminded to be observant of their patients.
“It’s been helpful to make sure that we just remind hospitals and clinicians that you may have a patient who may come and these are the kinds of symptoms you may see and if you see these symptoms you need to know that you may need to let us know because they may have the Zika virus,” she said.
On Wednesday, Ardis Hoven — an infectious disease consultant at the Kentucky Department of Public Health — said health providers are learning more about the virus as more scientific information becomes available.
“They’re anticipating that we’re going to see more neurological complications, if you will, from these children who have been infected in utero,” she said.
The CDC now says in addition to causing microcephaly, or abnormally small brain size, the virus is linked to premature birth and eye problems in infants.
Aedes egypti is the mosquito at the center of Zika virus. A bite from an infected mosquito can cause fever, rash, joint pain and abnormal brain development.
Hoven said Kentucky is not a hotbed for aedes egpyti mosquitos, but the state has some.
“We do have aedes egypti in Kentucky,” she said. “We don’t have it in the same number as some of the other states do, but the potential is still there.”
Here’s more on what you need to know about Zika: