The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico in an effort to address the risk posed by Zika virus to pregnant women in the U.S. territory.
“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,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement released Friday.
Burwell made the declaration in response to the request of Alejandro Garcia, governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
The public health emergency seeks to help the Puerto Rican government apply for financial support through the U.S. Labor Department’s National Dislocated Worker Grant program in order to recruit and train unemployed workers for outreach and vector control programs.
Puerto Rico can also ask for the reassignment on an interim basis of local public health personnel who are funded under Public Health Service Act initiatives in order to provide assistance to Zika virus response efforts on the island.