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Health Association, Department Warn Population About Flu, Zika Viruses

By on January 28, 2016

SAN JUAN – The Health Quality Association of Puerto Rico urged everyone to get vaccinated against the flu virus amid an epidemic declared Thursday by the Health Department and also encouraged women to avoid getting pregnant due to the threat posed by the Zika virus, for which there is still a dearth of information.

“Because of the lack of knowledge, women should truly abstain from getting pregnant as we get more information, but certainly this is not a prohibition. They should have the information,” noted Erika M. Benabe, a gynecologist who participated in the Third Congress for the Control of Infections: Prevention, Identification and Management, taking place at the Verdanza Hotel.

In that regard, the association agreed with the opinions of Health Secretary Ana Ríus, who early Thursday morning made the same recommendation. “Women should refrain from getting pregnant, but if the woman wants to get pregnant, she should avoid getting bitten by the mosquito,” she said.

The Zika, denque and chikungunya viruses are all spread through aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Ríus, in a separate news conference, said Thursday the Zika virus has already moved to Carolina and Juncos. The first case of Zika was detected in December but there are 19 to date. The cases are all in east coast cities.

Benabe said pregnant women should use mosquito repellent and adequate clothing to avoid getting bitten by the mosquito that causes Zika.

Former State epidemiologist Johnny Rullán said that 100 babies are born each day in Puerto Rico and while there are some women who will avoid getting pregnant, others will not. He also said any pregnant woman who gets a fever should get tested within the next 10 days for the Zika virus. “If it is Zika, then they have to talk with their obstetrician, so that the baby’s head circumference is measured,” he said.

While Rullán said he believes the Health Department is acting diligently to fight the spread of the Zika virus, he said it is not getting enough government cooperation. He noted that the Environmental Quality Board should open tire collection centers and that businesses that deal with tires should cover them to avoid the accumulation of water.

On the other hand, the association urged the general public to get vaccinated against the influenza virus. Ríus declared a flu epidemic in Puerto Rico because of the alarming spread of the virus, as there were 1,349 cases detected last week, a significant rise.

The physicians said the most-at-risk populations for getting the viruses are infants, pregnant women, people with chronic diseases and the elderly.

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