The Cable

Dramatic Rise in Zika Cases Among Pregnant Women in the U.S.

The looming public health crisis from the Zika virus in the U.S. just got a lot worse.

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The threat from the Zika virus in the United States has seemingly become much more acute.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that is monitoring 279 pregnant women with likely Zika virus infections across U.S. states and American territories. This includes 122 pregnant women in Puerto Rico, as well as 157 on the mainland. As of this week, there were 544 reported cases of Zika in the United States.

“One challenge of this Zika virus outbreak is is the lack of understanding of the magnitude of risk and the spectrum of outcomes associated with Zika virus infection during pregnancy,” CDC researchers wrote in a report published Friday.

This is a dramatic uptick from previous CDC reports, which had said 48 pregnant women had acquired Zika.

The CDC did not share the outcomes of any of the pregnancies. There’s no known cure for the virus, which has been linked both to microcephaly in newborns and Guillain-Barré, a condition that causes paralysis in adults. A number of babies have been born with microcephaly in Colombia and Brazil, the epicenters of the outbreak.

News of the dramatic rise in Zika cases comes at the end of a week in which the White House and Congress are at odds over how much should be allocated to stop Zika’s spread. President Barack Obama has asked for $1.9 billion to fight it. Earlier this week, the Senate agreed to give the president $1.1 billion. The House balked at providing new funding, allocating $622 million in existing spending to stop the virus, spread by mosquitoes and sexual contact.

According to the CDC, none of the Zika cases originated in the United States; the virus was acquired while traveling abroad or through sexual contact. But with temperatures rising, and mosquito season about to get underway, it could be simply be a matter of time before the bugs transmit Zika on U.S. shores.

Photo credit: ORLANDO SIERRA/Getty Images

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