The United States officially confirmed its first Zika virus death on Friday. According to CDC reports, an elderly Puerto Rican man recently died of complications from a bout with Zika. While Puerto Rico is currently experiencing massive outbreaks of the virus, health officials state the man’s death occurred as a result of severe internal bleeding stemming from Zika infection.
Earlier this year, a World Health Organization spokesperson declared that in 2016, 4 million cases of Zika virus could be expected in the Americas alone. Due to potentially crippling birth defects, this mosquito-borne illness is most dreaded among pregnant women.
Though in adults, Zika’s prevalent symptoms include fever, skin rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, the consequences of Zika upon infants can be far more devastating. Infants born with Zika virus often suffer from microcephaly. This defective condition results in abnormally small head size and brain damage.
Other severe birth defects caused by microcephaly can include seizure, developmental milestone delay, intellectual disability, problems with movement and balance, difficulty swallowing, along with hearing and vision impairment.
While 707 cases of Zika virus have been reported in the United States territory, 90 of those are attributed to pregnant women. In light of the dangers associated with Zika virus, health officials staunchly stated a warning.
“Residents of and travelers to Puerto Rico should continue to employ mosquito bite avoidance behaviors, take precautions to reduce the risk for sexual transmission, and seek medical care for any acute illness with rash or fever. Clinicians who suspect Zika virus disease in patients who reside in or have recently returned from areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission should report cases to public health officials.”
Adding to the dangers faced in Puerto Rico, experts predict a staggering 2 billion people worldwide may eventually be affected by Zika virus. Consequently, it was also concluded that upwards of 5 million newborn babies are now at risk for microcephaly. Concerning the growing number of Zika miscarriages, Dr. Oluwatosin Goje, an Infectious Disease OB/GYN at the Cleveland Clinic, told CBS News the following.
“With infections in general during pregnancy, there’s a risk of miscarriage. Other infections that can cause miscarriage include toxoplasmosis, rubella, and cytomegalovirus, and many times depending on how early the infection is contracted, some people may have a miscarriage. One of the things that researchers are studying is the suspicion that having contracted the Zika virus in the first trimester may be more detrimental compared to the second or third trimester, so that might explain the miscarriages in some people.”
Dr. Goje’s comments came after two U.S. women had miscarried from Zika infection while traveling abroad. Unfortunately, Zika virus cases are on the rise in the continental United States as well. States most likely to incur a Zika outbreak include warmer-weathered southeastern areas, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
While chances of contracting the Zika virus are highest during spring and summer, a few universal tips people can employ to greatly reduce becoming infected include applying insect repellent often, eliminating standing water, and wearing long sleeved shirts and turtlenecks when insect repellent is not available.
[Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images]