The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday the Zika virus was spreading fast in Puerto Rico and urged the U.S. territory to conduct aerial spraying to control mosquito populations to reduce Zika-associated birth defects.

"Multiple independent data sources indicate that at current trends, thousands of pregnant women in Puerto Rico will catch Zika," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement.

Aerial spraying is a safe and a proven approach to tackle mosquitoes that transmit diseases, such as, Zika, dengue and chikungunya, the CDC said.  

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Since the start of the Zika outbreak late last year, 1,726 people in the U.S. commonwealth have been infected with Zika, including a total of 191 pregnant women.

Puerto Rico is facing debt problems as its government and healthcare industry struggle to contain the spread of the Zika virus, blamed for severe birth defects and other neurological diseases.