Puerto Rico Faces 'Uphill Battle' Against Zika Spread

Funds needed to battle the virus, which has been linked to severe birth defects
Funds needed to battle the virus, which has been linked to severe birth defects

HealthDay News — U.S. health officials issued an assessment Thursday of the continued spread of the Zika virus, which is already suspected of causing thousands of birth defects in Brazil and has made inroads into Puerto Rico.

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said today during a news conference: "We are learning more about Zika every day. The link with microcephaly and other possibly serious birth defects is growing stronger every day. The link to Guillain-Barré syndrome is likely to be proven in the near future, and the documentation that sexual transmission is possible is now proven."

First discovered in Uganda in 1947, the Zika virus wasn't thought to pose major health risks until last year, when it became clear that it posed potentially devastating threats to pregnant women. Meanwhile, the virus continues to spread in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is not expected to pose a significant threat to the United States mainland, federal health officials have said in the past.

In Puerto Rico, however, the situation is "of great concern," said Frieden, who just returned from the island. "Puerto Rico is on the frontline of the battle against Zika. And it's an uphill battle." By next year, Frieden added, there could be hundreds of thousands of cases of Zika in the territory, and "thousands of infected pregnant women."

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