HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced today $5 million in funding to 20 health centers in Puerto Rico to further combat the Zika virus disease. Health centers will use this funding to expand voluntary family planning services, including contraceptive services, outreach and education, and to hire more staff.

Puerto Rico/CIA
Puerto Rico/CIA

“In Puerto Rico, and around the world, the Zika virus is a serious and challenging health threat,” said Burwell, who begins a two-day trip to the island today. “We are committed to doing everything we can to combat this threat and to help strengthen health care in Puerto Rico.”

There are around 474 cases of Zika in Puerto Rico that have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and that number is expected to rise, resulting in greater risk for transmission. Scientists at CDC have concluded, after careful review of existing evidence, that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Zika virus infection during pregnancy has also been linked to pregnancy loss and other adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes.

“These awards will allow health centers to bolster their ongoing efforts to detect and prevent the spread of the Zika virus in Puerto Rico,” said HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae.

The 20 health centers and their 84 service delivery sites in Puerto Rico serve over 330,000 people, including nearly 80,000 women age 15 to 45. Services provided include: prenatal care to over 3,300 pregnant women; delivery of more than 2,000 babies; and contraceptive services to more than 16,600 people annually.