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Sen. Nelson visiting Jupiter in Zika fight

Posted at 6:18 AM, Mar 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-24 18:34:31-04

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will be in Jupiter on Thursday to meet with researchers who are working to develop a cure for the Zika virus.

RELATED: More Zika virus coverage

Nelson’s visit comes about a week after the U.S. Senate approved legislation to speed up the development of vaccines and treatments for the disease. 

The legislation, which now awaits a vote in the House, would add the Zika virus to the Food and Drug Administration’s Tropical Disease Priority Review Voucher Program.  

If the legislation is approved, Nelson's office said it would create an incentive for drug makers to accelerate their search for a cure.

Scientists briefed Nelson on research and development efforts, such as exploring whether the virus can be stopped at the placenta wall preventing the virus from invading a fetus.

“The virus is a mild flu like symptom, but it is absolutely devastating if the recipient is pregnant because we see these terribly deformed babies," Nelson explained.

Nelson says scientists are also researching a vaccine to stop Zika outright.

“Unfortunately these things take time and it's going be a year or two or three,” said Nelson. “And we have to go through the human trials but we have to start."

According to the World Health Organization, there are currently 15 drug makers working to develop a vaccine for the virus.  One of those companies is the Scripps Research Institute located in Jupiter.