Puerto Rico has reported first case of Zika virus, an illness transmitted by mosquitoes. The illness has recently been linked to many birth defects in Brazil. On Thursday, Puerto Rico's Health Secretary Ana Rius said that the unidentified patient had not traveled lately, and are natives of the eastern region of the island.
Officials said that Zika’s symptoms are similar to that of 2 other mosquito-borne illnesses, dengue fever and chikungunya. They can also include headache, a slight fever and joint pain in the hands and feet.
Brazilian scientists have associated Zika infections with a recent increase in the cases of babies being born with abnormally tiny heads. The abnormal condition is known as microcephaly, and generally leads to mental retardation.
In Brazil, over 2,700 babies were born with microcephaly in 2015, which is up from fewer than 150 in the year before. Health officials in Brazil said that they are convinced that the jump was linked to a sudden Zika virus outbreak, though international experts have warned that it’s quite early to be sure and have noted that the condition can have a number of other cases.
Last May, the first local Zika virus case was detected in Brazil and since then health officials have estimated between 440,000 and 1.3 million people, who have contracted the virus. Zika virus was first identified in the Americas less than 2 years back and since then has spread at a very fast pace across South and Central America.
Rodrigo Stabeli, vice-president of the Rio de Janeiro-based Fiocruz research institute, said, “We are looking at the beginning of an epidemic in a country that has in between 200,000 and 300,000 births per year, which shows how worried we are. It's a virus we don't know that much about. We are preparing for the unknown”.