You've probably heard news reports about Zika, a virus that's been spreading across South and Central America as well as the Caribbean.
Zika is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes. In past outbreaks, the vast majority of people who contracted Zika didn't experience symptoms. For those with symptoms, they were relatively mild.
Zika infection in a pregnant woman can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. Zika has also been linked to neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome in those infected, and we have learned that it can also be spread from a man to his sexual partners.
We're learning more about this virus every day. As Surgeon General, my job is to make sure that you have the information you need to stay safe and healthy.
We are responding to local transmission of Zika by mosquitoes in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa -- and we are taking steps to prepare for any transmission within the continental United States. Right now, researchers are working hard to develop a vaccine that will prevent Zika infections.
The federal government is also working closely with the states and private partners to ensure that adequate testing capacity is available so that anyone who may be infected -- especially pregnant women -- can find out quickly and take steps to prevent further spread of Zika. We are also working with states to help them refine and implement Zika preparedness and response plans for their jurisdictions.
But this work takes resources. And we will need more resources to make sure that communities across our country can address a potential Zika outbreak.
That is why President Obama has requested funds to help us prevent, detect, and treat this virus. It is my hope that Congress will act quickly to provide funding so we can protect the American people from the spread of Zika.
As the summer months approach and mosquito season begins, know that there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from Zika.
For the latest information and resources on the Zika virus, please go to cdc.gov/zika.
Dr. Vivek Murthy 19th U.S. Surgeon General