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Zika forum held in Raleigh to brainstorm virus solutions

Posted June 7

​The race is on among pharmaceutical firms to develop a Zika vaccine. On Tuesday, some on the front lines of the crisis held a forum at the Research Triangle Park to brainstorm solutions.

Congressman David Price helped organize the forum, where he called on the federal government to free up nearly $2 billion to combat the Zika virus.

Price says it’s an emergency that needs to be addressed right now.

“I think there’s just widespread recognition that this is an urgent problem,” said Kelly Saldana, deputy director of the Office of Heath Infections Diseases and Nutrition.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 600 possible cases of Zika in the United States, including nearly 200 pregnant women.

Researchers call the virus unprecedented, with its ability to cause birth defects and to be transmitted through sexual contact.

“I think today is a step in the right direction and I would urge us to get together more often and more broadly,” said Pia MacDonald, Senior Director for the Center for Applied Public Health Research.

President Barack Obama has requested $1.9 billion in federal Zika funding.

However, the measure has stalled in congress, and the administration has shifted resources originally intended to combat Ebola.

Many on Tuesday called the delay dangerous, including Price.

“The conclusion is unmistakable that we just need to get with this program and treat it like the emergency is,” he said.

Without the money, researchers say they may not be able to fast-track vaccine development.

In an effort to contain the crisis that shows no signs of letting up, members of the forum promised to pool resources.

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