The White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal agencies will gather next month to come up with strategies to combat the Zika virus, Reuters reports.
Timing is critical because officials expect to see a possible widespread outbreak once the warm weather hits the United States.
The Obama administration and the CDC will host a summit at the latter's Atlanta headquarters in April for state and local officials to formulate a plan to fight the species of mosquito that carries the Zika virus. Zika is believed to have caused thousands of cases of microcephaly in Brazil in infants whose mothers were infected with Zika during pregnancy.
While the way in which Zika causes the devastating birth defect is still unknown, now the World Health Organization says that evidence is linking the virus to cases of Guillain-Barre, an auto-immune syndrome in which the body attacks its own nervous tissues and causes paralysis, according to a second Reuters report.
Currently, U.S. cases of Zika virus were contracted in Zika-affected zones of Latin and Central America except in a Texas case where the virus was spread sexually. The CDC predicts that Zika will be spreading via mosquito in the U.S. by June or July.
"We're in a posture of knowing that time is precious and collaboration is essential," CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, M.D, told Reuters.
Hospitals across the U.S. are bracing for Zika, although most people infected by the virus will show only mild symptoms if they become ill at all. However, Brazil has linked Zika infection to 640 cases of microcephaly and are investigating 4,200 more cases of the birth defect, in which babies are born missing large sections of their brains. The cases of Guillain-Barre now provide an additional note of alarm.
The CDC is working on a vaccine, but vaccines are costly and time-consuming to produce. In the meantime, the agency is hoping that the widespread use of air conditioning, window screens and regular garbage collection will minimize the risk and slow the spread in the U.S. of the virus.