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Washington, DC, March 28, 2016 (PAHO/WHO)- Surveillance for Zika Virus infection is intensifying in the Americas, but "It is hard to say exactly what the burden of disease in the region is, or will be in the future," according to Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri of the Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization.

Speaking at a US Department of Health and Human Services expert consultation on Zika Virus in the Americas in Washington today, Aldighieri described PAHO's integrated surveillance strategy and the need to continue training primary health care workers in identifying and reporting Zika cases in addition to strengthening laboratory capacities .

He participated in a panel on Zika Virus Pathogenesis, Epidemiology, and Natural History at the consultation, along with Dr Fernando Bozza of FIOCRUZ, Dr Albert I. Ko of Yale School of Public Health Dr. Pedro F.C. Vasconcelos of the Evandro Chagas Institute, Dr Nahida Chakhtoura of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and Dr Scott Weaver of the University of Texas Medical Branch.

The goal of the two-day consultation is to review current information about epidemiology and natural history, including potential link to microcephaly and other fetal malformations, clinical manifestations, modes of transmission and pathogenesis of Zika virus. The scientists also plan to identify critical gaps in knowledge, technologies, research infrastructure and regulatory oversight needed to address the current epidemic, and discuss strategies to accelerate the development of vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics and novel vector control methods.

The consultation was opened today by Dr Anthony S. Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, and Dr Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, and other agencies are participating.

Other topics under discussion at the expert consultation include vaccines, therapeutics, vector control, diagnostics, and blood supply. It is expected to end on Tuesday with a session called "Future Steps and Conclusion: What should HHS do in the immediate and longer term to accelerate research and development of countermeasures?"