Puerto Rico has reported its first case of zika, a mosquito-borne virus that has been spreading across South America and the Caribbean and has been linked by Brazilian authorities to a serious birth defect, Caribbean News Now reports.
Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s representative in Congress, said in a statement his office had been in touch with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had confirmed the single case of zika on the island, Reuters reported
“There is no reason for alarm, and the public should continue to take common sense steps to avoid mosquito bites, like using repellent and wearing long pants and shirts,” Pierluisi said.
Zika was first detected in Africa in the 1940s but was unknown in the Americas until last year. The mosquito-transmitted disease has been confirmed in countries including Brazil, Panama, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, Suriname, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Guatemala and Paraguay, according to public health officials.
Brazilian authorities in November linked zika to a surge in babies born with microcephaly, a birth defect that seriously limits a child’s mental and physical abilities.
Between three and 12 days after being bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus, three out of four people come down with symptoms including mild fever, rash, conjunctivitis, headaches and joint pain.
Meanwhile, thousands are estimated to be infected with zika in Suriname.
About two months after the first two autochthonous (indigenous) cases of zika virus infection were confirmed in the South American country, one expert estimates that the disease burden may be quite high.
According to a report in Loop Suriname last week, the head of the Academisch Ziekenhuis Paramaribo (AZP) lab, where the first cases were confirmed, said thousands may be infected with the mosquito borne viral illness.
John Codrington bases his estimate on the hundreds of testing applications the lab has received. Some of those who have tested positive include pregnant women.
The Bureau of Public Health Care, based on what is happening in Brazil with the surge in microcephaly cases seen this year, is advising women to delay pregnancy as a precautionary measure in the short term.
In addition, Suriname health officials announced an action plan that focuses on fighting the mosquito that transmits the Zika virus and educating the community.