Baby dies of Zika in Texas

Baby dies of Zika in Texas
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Texas health officials on Tuesday reported the state's first Zika-related death, likely to deepen public fears over the virus in the continental U.S. amid a congressional stalemate over funding to combat the disease.

An infant in Harris County, who had contracted Zika in the womb, died shortly after birth, the Texas Department of Health said Tuesday. The mother had been infected while traveling in Latin America during her pregnancy, officials said.

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It is one of only a handful of reported deaths caused by the Zika virus on the U.S. mainland.

Federal health officials have been stepping up its warnings about the danger the virus poses to pregnant women. The virus, which can be spread by mosquitoes and sexual contact, is known to cause severe birth defects such as microcephaly, which hinders a fetus’s brain development.

Federal health officials were monitoring 479 pregnant women for the virus as of July 28.    

Fifteen babies have been born with Zika-related birth defects in the U.S., and six women have suffered miscarriages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One other baby has been born with microcephaly in Texas. The state has reported a total of 99 cases, all acquired during foreign travel.

Mosquitoes are not known to carry the virus in Texas, though the health department said they are "on alert for the possibility local transmission."

Health officials in countries such as Brazil that have struggled with the virus for nearly a year have advised women to delay pregnancy until the end of the outbreak.

U.S. health officials have urged pregnant women to avoid travel to Zika-affected countries, as well as an area in Miami that has recently seen an outbreak, but they have been careful not to specifically tell women to delay pregnancy.

Federal health officials have already set aside about $38 million to fight Zika in Texas, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

In a letter to Texas lawmakers earlier Tuesday, Burwell warned that the Obama administration's $374 million to fight the Zika virus is quickly running out. 

Burwell’s letter comes in response to one from Republicans in the Texas delegation, including Sens. John CornynJohn CornynSuccession at DHS up in the air as Trump set to nominate new head Trying to kick tobacco again This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington MORE and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem debate contenders take aim at Warren The Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington MORE, that pointed to reports that almost $400 million that the administration shifted over to fight Zika remains unspent. Republicans say the administration already has sufficient funding for Zika.

Lawmakers left for their seven-week summer recess after failing to reach a deal over more funding to fight the virus.