Puerto Rico Confirms 157 Zika Virus Cases
SAN JUAN — A total of 157 cases of Zika viral infections, 14 of them in pregnant women, have been reported in Puerto Rico during the island’s eighth week of virus alert, Health Secretary Ana Ríus confirmed Tuesday.
The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Thomas Frieden, traveled to Puerto Rico on Monday and will stay until Wednesday in an effort to establish collaborative ties in the fight against the virus. “The CDC is offering us technical support and we are helping them in getting to know the disease better,” Ríus said.
“Public health experts are concerned the Zika outbreak could potentially lead to the infection of hundreds of thousands of people in Puerto Rico during 2016, based on past experience with dengue and chikungunya, which are transmitted by the same mosquitoes,” reads a CDC media advisory released Friday.
Health Department officials are especially concerned about providing better prenatal care to infected pregnant women, Ríus noted. “Most of them are in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy, so we have to pay particular attention to them.” Scientists have found increasing evidence of a link between the Zika virus in pregnant women and microcephaly, a type of birth defect.
During his visit, Frieden will meet with CDC staff on the island and visit the CDC’s dengue lab, where Zika testing is underway. He will also tour the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the Health Department’s headquarters in San Juan.
Officials have also taken measures regarding blood transfusions to prevent further contamination of the virus, Ríus added. A local blood bank, Banco de Sangre de Servicios Mutuos, said Tuesday that its entire distribution will consist of blood products imported from U.S. locations that have not had a Zika virus outbreak.
The blood bank also announced the signing of an agreement with Cerus Corp., which is dedicated to biomedical products for the inactivation of pathogens, including Zika virus, in platelets and plasma collected in automated apheresis, or blood separation, systems.