The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that some 157 pregnant women in the United States and another 122 in U.S. territories, primarily Puerto Rico, have tested positive for infection with the Zika virus.
The CDC, in a conference call, said that so far fewer than a dozen of the infected pregnant women it has tracked in the United States and Puerto Rico have had miscarriages or babies born with birth defects.
This was the first time the agency had disclosed the number of Zika-infected pregnant women in the United States and its territories.
According to Reuters, U.S. health officials have determined that the mosquito-borne virus, which can also be transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected person, can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by unusually small head size, and can lead to severe brain abnormalities and developmental problems in babies.
The agency told reporters on the call it has dramatically increased its testing capacity for Zika in the United States, as it girds for an increase in cases during the summer mosquito season.
Virtually all the Zika cases in the continental United States so far have been in people returning from countries where Zika is prevalent, such as Brazil, or through sexual transmission by travellers.
The latest report comes at a time when U.S. health officials have been clamouring for adequate funding to support mosquito protection and eradication, development of anti-Zika vaccines and better diagnostics and long-term studies needed to follow children born to infected mothers and to better understand the sexual transmission risk.
The Pentagon has admitted that it accidentally sent live anthrax samples to as many as nine laboratories across the country and to a U.S. Military Base in South Korea.
Anthrax is an acute disease caused by the bacterium, Bacillus Anthracis, in which most of its forms are lethal, affecting mostly animals.It is not contagious but can be transmitted through contact or consumption of infected meat.
The U.S. military said 22 military personnel at the Osan Air Base in South Korea are receiving preventive treatment after being possibly exposed to the sample.
Four civilians are also receiving treatment in the U.S. – although authorities say they face a “minimal risk”.
Pentagon Spokesman, Colonel Steve Warren, said “the sample was destroyed in accordance with appropriate protocols”.
Experts in bio-safety said they are astonished by the lapse and called for greater precautions.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has begun an investigation into the incident.
Colonel Warren said, “Out of an abundance of caution, the Defence Department has stopped the shipment of this material from its labs pending completion of the investigation”.
CDC spokesman, Kathy Harden, said that samples involved in the investigation will be securely transferred to CDC or affiliated laboratories “for further testing”, Ms Harden said that the CDC has also sent officials to the labs “to conduct on-site investigations”.
A U.S. Air Marshal has been undergoing tests in a hospital in Houston after being assaulted in Lagos, Nigeria with a syringe containing an unknown substance, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Monday.
The marshal was attacked on Sunday at the airport in Lagos and given an on-scene screening by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before boarding a United Airlines flight to Houston that landed on Monday, it said.
“The victim did not exhibit any signs of illness during the flight and was transported to a hospital upon landing for further testing.
“None of the testing conducted has indicated a danger to other passengers,” it said, without providing further information.