The Zika virus continues to spread throughout the Western Hemisphere, including in wide swaths of Central and South America. Concerns are growing for pregnant women because the mosquito-borne virus has been shown to cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain.
Here are the latest updates about the outbreak, which the World Health Organization has deemed a "global health emergency."
Puerto Rico Faces Growing Number of Zika Cases
At least 474 people in Puerto Rico have already been diagnosed with Zika as officials race to curb the outbreak. The virus has already been transmitted from mosquitoes to people on the island, unlike in the continental U.S., where no cases have been contracted from an insect.
This week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said they have awarded $5 million to 20 health centers in the area to help with family planning, contraception and outreach to those most at risk for negative consequence of contracting a Zika infection.
“In Puerto Rico, and around the world, the Zika virus is a serious and challenging health threat,” Secretary of HHS, Sylvia M. Burwell, said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are committed to doing everything we can to combat this threat and to help strengthen health care in Puerto Rico.”
First Commercial Zika Test is Approved by FDA
Quest Diagnostics announced today they have received emergency authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell the first commercially available diagnostic test for Zika directly to health care providers. Currently, doctors must coordinate with their state and local health department if they want to test a patient for the virus.
Quest Diagnostics plans to make the new test broadly available to physicians for patient testing, including in Puerto Rico, early next week.
Zika Cases in the US Top 400At least 426 people have been diagnosed with Zika in the 50 U.S. states since the outbreak was first detected late last year. Of those who have been diagnosed, 36 were pregnant women.
All except eight cases were contracted from a person traveling abroad. The eight other cases were sexually transmitted. The virus has not yet been spread in the U.S. through mosquitoes.
In U.S. territories, outside the 50 states, the number of those infected is far higher at 599 people. Among those infected were 59 pregnant women.
South Korea Creates Olympic Outfits that Protect Athletes from Mosquitoes
The South Korean Olympic athletes will have a unique way of avoiding mosquitoes at the summer Olympics in Brazil, thanks to new "Zika-proof" uniforms.
Unveiled this week, the uniforms contain mosquito-repellent to keep athletes safe from mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, according to the Associated Press.
The outfits also feature long pants and sleeves to keep athletes covered during the opening ceremony. Due to strict restrictions, the Korean Olympic Committee could not make similar changes for uniforms worn during competition, according to the AP, but athletes will be able to wear spray insect repellent.