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Health Security, Vol 15, January 2017
Over the past 10 years, US health security has been threatened by a series of infectious disease events: the 2009 influenza outbreak, the emergence of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and the rapid spread of Zika virus throughout the Americas. In each of these events, inadequate information has delayed initial detection of the outbreak, and a lack of understanding about the underlying epidemiology of the viruses hindered control efforts. As the ongoing US response to Zika illustrates, delays in detecting and responding to outbreaks can exacerbate their human and economic tolls. While the United States continues to struggle to understand how Zika virus can spread and cause serious disease, more than 37,000 cases have already been identified in the United States and its territories. Each one of these cases must be investigated by health authorities to ensure that they do not spread their infection. In particular, pregnant women must be followed closely, as Zika can cause fetal death or severe birth defects. It is estimated that each baby who is born with Zika-related birth defects will cost families and the US healthcare system up to $10 million.