The Zika Virus has surfaced in Puerto Rico, according to a statement made on Friday by Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s representative in Congress.
According the Pierluisi, his office has been in touch with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who have confirmed Puerto Rico’s first locally-acquired case of the virus, that has, up until this case, been reported mostly in countries like Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Paraguay, and Mexico, among others. Puerto Rico’s Health Secretary, Ana Rius, confirmed that the unidentified patient had not travelled recently, thus making the only possible way for the mosquito-borne virus to have been transmitted to the patient is through a local mosquito.
Though the Zika virus has been linked to hundreds of cases of microcephaly — a neurological condition, developed in the womb, that causes abnormally small heads, and disruption of normal brain development — in Brazilian children, the Daily Mail reports that Pierluisi said this single case of the virus is no cause for alarm, and that simple common sense is needed to prevent mosquito bites, and the virus.
“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.”
But what is the Zika virus, and should you be worried? According to Tech Times, the Zika virus was first discovered in a monkey in the Zika forest in Uganda, in 1947, and later discovered in mosquitoes native to the forest in 1948. In 1952, the first instance of the Zika virus recorded in a human was discovered in Nigeria. The Zika virus is most often transmitted through mosquito bite, though perinatal transmission — through trans-placental transmission, or delivery, from an infected mother to her baby — is possible, and two cases have also been recorded of transmission of the virus through sexual intercourse. The virus is believed to be related to other insect-borne infections such as dengue fever, yellow fever, and the West Nile virus.
At the moment, there is no known treatment for the Zika virus, though those infected are often instructed to get plenty of rest, drink fluids to stave off dehydration, and take pain and fever medications, though doctors are advising against taking aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, until a link to dengue fever can be ruled out.
Symptoms of the Zika virus include a fever, rash, conjunctivitis, headaches, vomiting, joint and muscle pain, and pain behind the eyes, and though the majority of those infected with the Zika virus show no symptoms, those that do typically have their symptoms begin to show between three and 12 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. No Zika virus-related deaths have been recorded as of this writing, and the virus usually runs its course in a few days to a week.
Due to the extreme rise in microcephaly cases in Brazil — 2,400 recorded cases in 2015, up from 147 in 2014 — government officials are urging women to postpone pregnancies, if possible, and six of the country’s states have issued a state of emergency linked to the Zika virus. The Brazilian state of Pernambuco alone has recorded over 900 cases of microcephaly in newborns, making it the country’s hardest hit state. Brazillian officials have stated that they are currently investigating 29 infant deaths related to microcephaly, after the autopsy of one newborn revealed that the baby had also been infected with the Zika virus prior to its birth, which gives officials cause to believe that there is a link between the two afflictions.
Though the Zika virus has surface in the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, there is no cause to worry about the virus just yet. Simply stay vigilant, and continue to practice normal mosquito-repelling precautions for the time being.
[Photo by Tom Ervin/Getty Images]