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Burwell to Visit Puerto Rico to Push Zika Response

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell will travel to Puerto Rico this week as the commonwealth faces a serious outbreak of Zika virus that’s already infected more than 400 people.

Burwell will be in Puerto Rico Tuesday and Wednesday, marking her first trip to the island as HHS Secretary. While there, she’ll meet with officials including Governor García Padilla, tour a hospital blood bank, host a roundtable discussion at a health center and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dengue Branch, according to an administration official.

When meeting with health care providers, Burwell will emphasize talking with obstetricians and gynecologists, the official said. She’ll also discuss the administration’s request to Congress for emergency funding.

“Over the course of the trip, you’ll hear the Secretary discuss the $1.9 billion in emergency funding that the Administration has asked Congress to provide,” the official said.

The administration asked Congress to provide the funding to respond to and prepare for the Zika outbreak, but lawmakers have struggled to reach a deal to provide the funding. Republicans pushed the White House to use funding that had been previously allocated to fight Ebola before allocating new funds.

The administration transferred more than $500 million that had been allocated for Ebola to fight Zika, but has maintained that the full request is still necessary. A group of Senate appropriators say they are close to reaching a deal to allocate some funding, while House Republicans have maintained they haven’t received enough information about the request from the administration.