An Aedes aegypti mosquito, the kind most likely to spread the Zika virus.
Caption
An Aedes aegypti mosquito, the kind most likely to spread the Zika virus.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Atlanta's role as a hub for international travel doesn't make Georgia more vulnerable to the Zika virus.

Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC, told reporters Tuesday that any kind of travel poses a risk.

“Zika spreads by hitchhiking in the blood of people who've been infected overseas. So, we're not going to eliminate the risk of people traveling and potentially spreading Zika, but it's not a risk that is particularly associated with air travel,” he said.

Hartsfield-Jackson International is the world’s busiest airport: more than 100 million travelers passed through the airport last year.

Earlier this year, the airport launched a campaign to help fight the spread of Zika. The effort includes a public information campaign to tell travelers how to best protect themselves from the Zika virus while abroad and selling stronger insect repellent at airport shops.

As of June 1, the CDC said 17 cases of Zika had been reported in Georgia. Almost all of those cases were travel related. One was the result of sexual transmission. On that same date, the CDC said 618 cases of the virus had been reported in the U.S.

Frieden said those numbers will likely grow.

“Mosquito season is just heating up, and so is Zika. So, we do anticipate that there will be more spread of Zika over the coming months. We anticipate that travelers will continue to come in with Zika, there could be sexual transmission of Zika, and we could see some local transmission,” he said.

Frieden said his agency is working with the National Institutes of Health to develop a vaccine for the virus, but that any such treatment is still a few years off.

“And even if and when we have a vaccine, we need better ways to control mosquitoes because they carry other diseases as well,” he said.

Frieden said a vaccine and better mosquito controls could come faster if Congress approved more money to fight the virus.

Earlier this year, The White House asked for $1.9 billion to fight Zika. The Senate has made efforts to begin discussing the funding with the House, but, so far, no additional funding has been issued.