Health secretary to visit Puerto Rico amid Zika push

The Obama administration’s top health official is heading to Puerto Rico amid an intensifying national focus on the spread of the Zika virus.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell will make a two-day trip to the island, which has reported more than 400 cases of the Zika virus.

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“She will amplify the important steps for everyone — especially pregnant women and women of childbearing age — to take to protect against Zika,” HHS wrote in a release on Monday announcing the trip.

The administration is aggressively ramping up its response to Zika, which was recently proved to cause birth defects in infants. The mosquito-borne virus is expected to begin spreading in the U.S. in early June.

Burwell’s trip — which includes a women’s roundtable and a visit to a blood bank — comes as the Obama administration battles with the GOP-led Congress over $2 billion in emergency response funding.

GOP leaders said last week they were drafting a funding bill, but it will likely fall short of President Obama's $1.9 billion request. 

She is making the trek about a month after the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also spent time there. CDC has several staffers stationed on the island to help control the outbreak.

Officials across HHS, as well as the State Department, have made a concerted effort to get ahead of the virus with outreach, education and funding in an attempt to avoid a repeat of last year's Ebola scare. The virus caused widespread panic despite very few infections occurring in the U.S.

Last week, advisers to Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP senator says idea that Ukraine interfered in US election is 'not a conspiracy theory' Cotton: Democrats are 'upset that their witnesses haven't said what they want them to say' Trump's troubles won't end with a Senate acquittal MORE’s campaign also visited Puerto Rico as part of a “fact-finding mission” on the effects of the virus.

Puerto Rico has already been hit hard, and officials have warned the effects could be lasting, given the island’s volatile economic situation.