The federal government declared a state of public health emergency in Puerto Rico Friday, with Zika threatening to spread to 25 percent of the island’s population.
The declaration comes a day after the U.S. surgeon general visited Puerto Rico and said he expected one quarter of the people there to be infected by the virus by year's end, according to The Associated Press.
In a prepared statement, officials from the U.S. Health and Human Services noted that the declaration is meant to highlight the danger facing the public on the island, a U.S. territory, especially pregnant women.
"This emergency declaration allows us to provide additional support to the Puerto Rican government and reminds us of the importance of pregnant women, women of childbearing age, and their partners taking additional steps to protect themselves and their families from Zika,” Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said.
The Puerto Rican government can now apply for funding in hiring and training workers who can stem the spread of Zika-carrying mosquitoes and to educate the public on ways they can help, like identifying breeding ground.
So far the Zika virus has spread thorugh much of South America. More recently, the virus was locally contracted in Florida's Miami-Dade county area.
Puerto Rico has reported 1,914 new Zika cases over the past week.
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Health Secretary Ana Rius said Friday there are 10,690 cases altogether, including 1,035 involving pregnant women. Zika has been tied to severe birth defects.
Rius said 90 people have been hospitalized because of the virus.
Officials also say 30 people have been diagnosed with a temporary paralysis condition known as Guillain-Barre that has been linked to Zika.
Zika virus is known to cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has also been associated with other adverse pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage, stillbirth, and serious neurological problems.