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Senator Nelson leads effort to find cure for Zika

The U.S. Senate passed his bill to encourage drug companies to develop treatment

ORLANDO, Fla. - A Florida legislator is heading up an effort to find a cure for the Zika virus.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's pedal to the metal, do the research, find the cure, find the vaccine and get it as fast as possible," U.S. Senator Bill Nelson said.

But finding a treatment for the Zika virus will take time. Nelson says it will be at least a year until a cure is found. He wants to speed up that process.

Nelson sponsored a bill that would add the Zika virus to the Food and Drug Administration's Tropical Disease Priority Review Voucher Program. It would encourage drug companies to research and develop a cure.

In return, the companies would get a voucher from the FDA to fast-track the approval process for another drug of their choosing. Or the companies could choose to sell the voucher.

"One of these expedited processes has been sold from one drug company to another for as much as $125 million, so you can see the real financial incentive," Nelson said.

New cases of the Zika virus are reported almost on a daily basis in Florida. With the upcoming summer months and more people visiting from affected areas, Nelson says it is important they find a cure sooner rather than later.

"Theoretically you could get quite a few drug companies working on this all of which could come up with different solutions for the virus," he said.

The U.S. Senate passed Nelson's bill Thursday. It is now waiting for approval from the U.S. House of Representatives, which Nelson hopes will happen next week. The measure would then go to President Obama for his signature.

Central Floridians are hoping leaders will take control over the spread of the Zika virus.

"I don't have a lot of fear about it. I just think it's something we can overcome probably," Joe Barrett said.

"I hope that they can get it under control and maybe they can find a cure for it," Alicia Chmielewski said.

So far, the Florida Department of Health says all of the 67 Zika cases are travel related. There is one situation of a sexually transmitted case of the virus and four pregnant woman are also affected.