As concerns about the Zika virus continue to intensify, New York's senior senator is imploring federal agencies to take decisive steps to try to contain the threat.
The Zika virus, spread through mosquito bites can cause birth defects in newborn children if pregnant women are infected.
“It’s not a danger unless you’re pregnant,” said Charles Schumer. “But if you’re pregnant, it’s a serious danger.”
Schumer, who visited the Buffalo region earlier this week, is calling on the U.S. Agency for International Development to increase its presence in countries abroad in order to contain the virus. An estimated 1.5 million Brazilians have been infected by the virus, with additional cases being reported in other South and Central American countries.
“El Salvador just urged all women, all young women, not to become pregnant until 2018,” said Schumer. “We don’t want to have to say that here in the United States.”
There have been five reported cases in New York, with one involving a pregnant woman.
Schumer is urging the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to focus on quickly developing a vaccine so an epidemic can be avoided.
Even if the virus continues to spread, Schumer said Western New York is not in immediate danger.
“The good news is that we have time because it’s only mosquito-born,” said Schumer. “So it won’t even come here, if it comes, until the summer.”
In a move Schumer had been advocating, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak to be a global health emergency on Monday. The WHO previously noted that the virus has been “spreading explosively.”