U.S. reports 279 Zika cases in pregnant women, Obama pushes Congress on funds

U.S. reports 279 Zika cases in pregnant women, Obama pushes Congress on funds
From Reuters - May 20, 2016

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON Health officials said 279 pregnant women in the United States and U.S. territories have tested positive for Zika infection, prompting a new call from President Barack Obama for more funding to fight the outbreak spreading through the Americas.

Obama wants the U.S. Congress to provide close to $1.9 billion for vaccine development, faster diagnostic tests, and new tools for killing the mosquitoes that carry the virus, which can cause a rare birth defect in newborns and neurological disorders in adults.

"We have got to get moving," Obama told reporters after meeting top health officials in the Oval Office.

"This has to get done over the course of the next several weeks in order for us to be able to provide confidence to the American people that we are handling this piece of business," he said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 157 pregnant women in the continental United States and another 122 in U.S. territories, primarily Puerto Rico, had tested positive for the infection.

That's a jump from its previous report of 48 cases in pregnant women in the continental United States and 65 cases in U.S. territories.

The Senate has pledged $1.1 billion for Zika and the House of Representatives voted to redirect $622.1 million in funding mainly by cutting programs for the Ebola virus. Lawmakers are now faced with hashing out a compromise on a funding bill.

Obama said both plans fell short. The White House has said Obama would veto the House plan.

"If I am a young family right now, or somebody who's thinking about starting a family, this is just a piece of insurance that I want to purchase," Obama said, urging Americans to tell their lawmakers to boost funding.


U.S. health officials have determined that Zika, which can also be transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected person, can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by unusually small head size, and can lead to severe brain abnormalities and developmental problems in babies.

The CDC told reporters on a conference call on Friday that so far fewer than a dozen of the infected pregnant women it has tracked in the United States and Puerto Rico have had miscarriages or babies born with birth defects. Brazil, the country hardest by Zika to date, has confirmed more than 1,300 cases of microcephaly linked to Zika.


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