Widespread Zika causes emergency in Puerto Rico

  • 13/08/2016
Zika Mosquito (Getty)
Zika Mosquito (Getty)

The US Secretary for Health and Human Services has declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico because of the widespread transmission of the Zika virus.

It warns that the virus poses a "significant threat" to public health.

The statement comes at the request of Alejandro Garca Padilla, governor of the US commonwealth, where the Zika virus is spreading rapidly, threatening hundreds of pregnant women and their unborn babies and women of childbearing age.

The declaration, issued on Friday, will allow HHS to provide added support to the government of Puerto Rico to address the outbreak on the island.

Specifically, declaration allows the government of Puerto Rico to apply for funding to hire and train unemployed workers to assist in vector control and outreach and education efforts through the US Department of Labor's National Dislocated Worker Grant program.

It also allows Puerto Rico to temporarily reassign public health workers funded through Public Health Service Act programs to assist in the Zika response.

As of August 12, the Puerto Rico health department has had 10,690 laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika, including infections in 1035 pregnant women.

It believes the actual number of infections is likely higher because most people with Zika infections have no symptoms and might not seek testing.