279 pregnant women in US infected with Zika — report

WASHINGTON, May 20 (KUNA) — Some 279 pregnant women in the US are infected with the Zika virus that is known to cause birth defects and miscarriages, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) said on Friday.
The number includes 157 women in the US plus 122 in Puerto Rice and other US territories. Previously about 47 pregnant women in the US and 65 in its territories were reported with symptoms of the virus, it added.
“I think it’s a combination of both increasing numbers of pregnant women with a Zika infection, and also a recent change in how we’re reporting out the numbers on a weekly basis,” said Dr. Margaret Honein, chief of the CDC’s Birth Defects Branch, in a call with reporters.
There have been 544 cases of Zika reported in the US in total but pregnant women are most closely monitored for the disease since it can be an indicator of how fast it is spreading.
Those who have been infected in the continental US are believed to have contracted it from traveling to Zika prone areas and not from local mosquitos, the CDC showed.
Earlier, President Barack Obama received a briefing on the US’ response to the Zika virus from members of his public health team.
“This is something that is solvable. It is not something that we have to panic about, but it is something that we need to take seriously,” said Obama after the meeting. The US will begin developing a vaccine to combat the Zika virus that is known to cause birth defects and other complications in newborn babies, he added.
“We’ve got a plan over the next several months to begin developing a vaccine and to continually improve our diagnostic tests,” he noted.
The US also seeks to work with its states in case it starts “seeing an outbreak” over the summer when mosquitoes are more active, he said. “Right now, what we’ve seen is a little over 500 cases of Zika in the continental United States, and they all appear to be travel related…meaning somebody from the US went down to an area that has Zika, got a bite, came back,” he pointed out. Obama has requested for Congress to approve USD 1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat the virus in which the Senate has so far approved a USD 1.1 billion bill and the House approved USD 622 million. (end) ak.hm

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