The number of pregnant women in the state with the Zika virus has increased fourfold — from nine to 36 cases — after the Department of Health said Friday that it was following new federal guidelines that changed how the women were being counted.
Under previous guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida health officials reported cases of Zika only if the pregnant woman reported symptoms of the virus. Under those standards, nine women in Florida met the criteria.
But under new CDC guidelines announced Friday, all pregnant women with evidence of the Zika virus, regardless of whether they have symptoms, will be included in the case count. Under the new guidelines, 36 pregnant women in Florida meet this standard.
Nationwide, the number of pregnant women being monitored for Zika more than doubled under the new standards, from 112 to 279, the CDC said.
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Pregnant women are considered to be at greater risk from the virus due to recent research establishing a link between an outbreak of Zika in Brazil and a concurrent spike in microcephaly, a birth defect in which a child is born with an underdeveloped brain and an abnormally small head. The new CDC guidelines are intended to better assess the potential risk of children being born with a birth defect or other health complication after their mother contracted the virus during pregnancy, federal officials said.
The new guidelines come as the Florida Department of Health reported Friday three more Zika virus cases in Florida — one in Miami-Dade, one in Osceola and one in Pinellas counties. Statewide, 116 people have contracted the Zika virus as of Friday — since Florida’s Department of Health began reporting infections on Feb. 9. Miami-Dade County has the highest number of confirmed cases in the state with 46 cases; Broward is second with 17 cases.
In February, President Barack Obama asked Congress for $1.9 billion to combat the spread of the Zika virus. The Senate on Tuesday voted to provide $1.1 billion in emergency funding, while the House approved a measure Thursday that would only provide $622 million.
“There is no reason why we should not fully fund this proposal and listen to the doctors and the health experts that are asking for this,” Sen. Marco Rubio, the Miami Republican, said Tuesday on the Senate floor.
Rubio is one of several Florida lawmakers calling for federal funding to help fight the Zika virus. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, introduced a measure last month that would provide the full $1.9 billion requested by the Obama administration.
There is no vaccine or treatment for the Zika virus, which is primarily transmited by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Spread of the virus has also been reported through blood transfusions and by men to their sexual partners.
Number of Cases (all travel related)
Cases involving pregnant women regardless of symptoms