Zika virus is spreading fast in Puerto Rico, infecting as many as 50 pregnant women per day and raising the risk of birth defects, US health officials said Thursday.
Meanwhile, lawmakers continued to disagree about funding the effort to combat the mosquito-borne disease despite expert warnings that the virus — which can cause microcephaly and other brain malformations — will probably spread to other parts of the United States this summer.
“This is a great concern,” Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters during a conference call.
“What we are seeing in Puerto Rico today is a very rapid increase in the level of infection,” he added. “Such that we think each day dozens — and potentially as many as 50 more pregnant women — in Puerto Rico are becoming infected with Zika virus.”
The US territories — which include Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands — have diagnosed and recorded 2,526 cases of Zika so far, which Frieden called “a very small fraction of the total.”