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The Zika virus has been described is “scarier” than first thought and its impact on the US could be greater than predicted.

A wider range of birth defects has been linked to the virus, according to Dr Anne Schuchat of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The mosquitoes that carry the virus could travel to more US states than previously thought, she said.

The current Zika outbreak began almost a year ago in Brazil and has been linked to thousands of birth defects in the Americas region.

Dr Schuchat told a White House briefing: “Most of what we’ve learned is not reassuring.

“Everything we know about this virus seems to be scarier than we initially thought.”

US president Obama asked the US Congress earlier this year for $1.8 billion in emergency funding to combat the virus.

In the meantime it has been using $589 million left over from an Ebola virus fund.

Puerto Rico is to receive $3.9 million in emergency Zika funding as the number of cases there doubles every week, the BBC reported.

The first US case of locally transmitted Zika was reported in February in Dallas, Texas – spread through sexual contact, not a mosquito bite.