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Increasing Zika Transmission in Puerto Rico and Florida Prompts Additional CDC Funding

The rapid spread of Zika throughout Puerto Rico coupled with the introduction of active transmission in Florida has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to award millions in Zika funding to US states and territories.

There are currently over 5,500 cases of Zika infection in Puerto Rico; the rapid spread of Zika throughout the island coupled with the introduction of active transmission in Florida has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to award millions in Zika funding to US states and territories.

According to the CDC, the prevalence of Zika-infected individuals residing in Puerto Rico has risen from 14% in February 2016, to 64% in June 2016. A CDC press release reports that many of the 5,582 individuals diagnosed with Zika infection in Puerto Rico since December 2015 were tested because they exhibited Zika-like symptoms. The CDC reports that Zika is most widely spread “in the San Juan metropolitan area, followed by the Ponce and Caguas metropolitan areas.”

Of those diagnosed with Zika, 672 were pregnant women. A total of 441 of these pregnant women presented with symptoms associated with Zika infection. According to the CDC, “Because approximately 80 percent of people infected with Zika do not have symptoms, the 672 pregnant women with evidence of Zika infection likely represent only a fraction of those who may be infected to date.” It is recommended that all pregnant women residing in Zika-endemic areas be routinely tested for Zika infection, regardless of whether or not they present with symptoms.

Lyle R. Peterson, MD, MPH, incident manager for the CDC and Zika Response director at the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, states, “Puerto Rico is in the midst of a Zika epidemic. The virus is silently and rapidly spreading in Puerto Rico. This could lead to hundreds of infants being born with microcephaly or other birth defects in the coming year. We must do all we can to protect pregnant women from Zika and to prepare to care for infants born with microcephaly.”

However, Puerto Rico is not the only US territory with active Zika transmission. The CDC has confirmed active transmission of Zika in Miami-Dade County, Florida since early July 2016. To help contain active transmission of the virus in the United States, the CDC has awarded close to $16 million to 40 US states and territories, with the largest sums going to states at highest risk for Zika transmission, including Florida, Texas, New York, and California.

This funding will focus on monitoring Zika-related complications and health outcomes, as well as efforts to “ensure that infants and their families are referred to appropriate health and social services.” Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the CDC, stated in the press release, “It is critical to identify infants with birth defects related to Zika virus so we can support them and their families…This CDC funding provides real-time data about the Zika epidemic as it unfolds in the United States and territories and will help those most devastated by this virus.”

The CDC reminds individuals, especially pregnant women and their sexual partners, as well as women of childbearing age, living in areas with active Zika transmission to take the following precautionary measures: use EPA-registered mosquito repellent, reduce standing water in or near the home, and use mosquito screens on doors and windows. Pregnant women should either use condoms or other effective measures to reduce the risk of contracting infection through sex, or abstain from sex for the duration of the pregnancy.