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On Friday, medical officials in Puerto Rico announced the first confirmed case of the birth defect microcephaly caused by a Zika virus infection.
According to The Associated Press, the diagnosis of microcephaly came eight months into the unidentified mother’s pregnancy, and the baby was born with severe brain defects, hearing issues and vision problems. The child remains hospitalized.
Puerto Rican Health Secretary Ana Rius said that while the mother had symptoms of the Zika virus between her second and third month of pregnancy, investigators are trying to find out why this case of microcephaly was diagnosed so late.
While Rius wouldn’t go into much more detail about the mother and child, she said that the case is unfolding in San Juan, and stressed that all “pregnant women should demand to be tested for Zika in their first, second and third trimesters.”
The confirmed case of microcephaly is the latest blow to an island already dealing with a Zika virus epidemic. There have been almost 31,500 cases of the virus reported, including more than 2,400 confirmed cases in pregnant women. In total, 233 people have been hospitalized and six deaths have been associated with Zika.
Unfortunately, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it expects a surge of babies born with severe birth defects in Puerto Rico in upcoming months. The CDC revealed that up to 15 percent of women in Puerto Rico don't seek prenatal care in the first trimester, increasing the likelihood of a rise in microcephaly cases.
“It's definitely very serious,” CDC deputy incident manager Dr. Francisco Alvarado-Ramy said in a statement. “It represents an enormous challenge from not only a family perspective ... (but) the emotional burden, the financial burden.”
The Zika epidemic has hit Puerto Rico during a rough time, as the tourism industry has taken a big hit, which has been a major factor in the recent economic crisis. The island is seeking more federal funds to fight the Zika virus.