Zika healthcare workers
Zika healthcare workersReuters

U.S. health officials have said that at least 279 pregnant women in the U.S. and its territories have tested positive for Zika virus, which causes microcephaly and brain abnormalities in children of the affected people. U.S. President Barack Obama has called on the Congress for more funding to fight the outbreak.

Of the 279 pregnant women, 157 live in the U.S. and 122 in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other U.S. territories, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. At least 64 women reported rash, 36 reported arthralgia, 37 had fever, and 17 were ailing with conjunctivitis. At least 39 women reportedly had Zika virus nucleic acid.

"These new numbers reflect a broader group of pregnant women — pregnant women who have any laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection, and whether or not they recalled symptoms — compared with numbers previously reported," the CDC said in a statement.

Obama has asked the Congress to disburse almost $1.9 billion for vaccine development, faster diagnostic tests and creation of tools to kill mosquitoes that are carrying the virus, according to Reuters. The Congress, however, approved $622.1 million, which is way lower than the funding sought by the president. 

"We've got to get moving," Obama was quoted as saying by Reuters.

"This has to get done over the course of the next several weeks in order for us to be able to provide confidence to the American people that we're handling this piece of business," he said.

The number of pregnant women who tested positive for Zika has increased in a day's time from 113 to 157, the CDC reported.

The virus, which spread largely in South America has caused microcephaly and brain defects in many newborns. The disease is also known to create neurological defects in adults.