WASHINGTON — President Obama meets with top public health officials Friday morning amid new reports that 279 pregnant women from the United States and its territories have shown signs of infection from the Zika virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that 157 pregnant women in the continental United States — and 122 in its territories — have tested positive for the virus, which can cause severe birth defects and miscarriages.
Less than a half-dozen of those women have reported adverse outcomes, but most are still pregnant and it's not yet known whether those numbers will increase over time, said Dr. Margaret Honein, chief of the CDC's Birth Defects Branch.
The new numbers are as of May 12 and, for the first time, count women who have tested positive for Zika even if they haven't shown symptoms, so they're not comparable to previously reported numbers. Previously, just 47 pregnant women in the continental United States, and 65 in the territories, were reported to have Zika symptoms.
'I think it’s a combination of both — both increasing numbers of pregnant women with a Zika infection, and also a recent change in how we’re reporting out the numbers on a weekly basis,' Honein said.
In all, 544 cases of Zika have been reported in the continental United States. But because pregnant women are most closely monitored for the disease, that might be the best indicator of how quickly the disease is spreading. As of Wednesday, none of the cases in the mainland were caused by local mosquitoes, and instead involved people who had recently traveled to Zika-prone areas. There are also 10 confirmed cases of sexual transmission, but the CDC would not say how many of them involved pregnant women.
At the White House, Obama is scheduled to meet Friday with Vice President Biden, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci and Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tom Frieden.
The meeting comes as Congress debates how much emergency funding to approve for Zika response. The Senate has approved $1.1 billion; the House has approved $622 million. The White House has threatened to veto the House bill if it's sent to the president's desk, and has asked for $1.9 billion.
In Wisconsin, the Department of Health Services said Wednesday that it has the first confirmed case of the Zika virus in the state.
The woman recently traveled to Honduras, where mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus are present. There have been no locally acquired cases of the Zika virus infection in Wisconsin or in the continental United States, the department said in a news release.
'Wisconsin is one of the last states to have a confirmed case of Zika virus infection detected in a resident,' State Health Officer Karen McKeown said in a statement.
'We have been actively preparing for the likelihood that this day would come,' she said. 'This includes testing more than 300 people who have traveled to countries with known Zika virus transmissions and monitoring for the presence of mosquitoes that may carry the Zika virus.'