As Zika cases go up, state lawmakers push for federal funding to combat the virus

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SEATTLE -- There are more cases of the Zika virus reported in the United States.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that there are about 200 pregnant women infected with the virus in the U.S.

Health officials said two of those cases are in Washington.

On Friday, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep.  Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., met at Harborview Medical Center to talk about how they’re trying to pass legislation that will provide funding to help health officials prepare and respond to the Zika virus.

“I understand and take the risk very seriously and as a pregnant woman the risk feels very personal,” said Annelisa Tornberg, an expectant mom.

Tornberg is healthy but the Zika virus has her worried.

“This is the first time we’ve ever seen an infection cause such devastating birth defects from something as simple as a mosquito bite,” added Tornberg.

Zika is spread through mosquito bites in warmer climates like Central and South America.

Pregnant women who travel to those tropical areas are at risk for contracting Zika.

Doctors at Harborview are concerned because they are still not sure how to treat the virus in pregnant women.

“Right now there is very little that we could do to change the course of the disease or reduce the harm to the fetus,” said Dr. John Lynch, a UW Medicine infectious disease specialist at Harborview.

Murray and DelBene are trying to push a $1.1 billion emergency funding bill through Congress. The money will be used to help fight Zika in the United States.

“It will make sure that families in communities get the support they need to prevent this virus from spreading and invest in preparedness and vaccine development,” said Murray.

“There are many women putting off pregnancy because of fear and uncertainty, and as the mosquito season begins to ramp up, pregnant woman across the country are living with the dread of -- not if but when -- Zika-infected mosquitos will be in our country,” said DelBene.

Meanwhile, Tornberg is hopeful more will be done to protect pregnant women from the virus.

“All of us have been bitten by a mosquito; it seems like a real possibility. All of us have partners who travel and we travel so it really brings it home,” added Tornberg.

Murray’s bipartisan bill now goes to the House to be voted on, but House Republicans have their own plan they’re trying to get passed.

Either way, public health officials said they need the funding to help deal with the growing Zika problem.