Last updated: 11:16 AM ET, Mon August 15 2016

Zika Virus Causes Public Health Emergency Declaration in Puerto Rico

Impacting Travel | Donald Wood | August 15, 2016

Zika Virus Causes Public Health Emergency Declaration in Puerto Rico

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock 

On Friday, the United States government officially declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico due to the outbreak of the Zika virus on the island.

According to The Associated Press, the declaration of a public health emergency allows the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to access emergency funds to help the people of Puerto Rico. In addition, the department will also be able to award grants and temporarily appoint personnel where needed.

The public health emergency declaration comes after Puerto Rico reported 1,914 new cases of the Zika virus over the last week. In total, the island has now reported 10,690 confirmed cases since December.

Officials believe the numbers could be much higher, but eight out of every 10 people infected by the virus show no symptoms. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy said that he expects 25 percent of Puerto Rico's nearly 3.5 million people to be infected by the end of 2016.

“This administration is committed to meeting the Zika outbreak in Puerto Rico with the necessary urgency,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement.

At least 1,035 pregnant women have been infected by the Zika virus, causing concern from officials due to the virus’ connection to birth defects including microcephaly. Only one confirmed case of microcephaly was found in Puerto Rico, but health authorities expect more to be discovered.

Puerto Rico Health Secretary Ana Rius also announced that 90 people have been hospitalized due to Zika infections, with 30 of those infected being diagnosed with a temporary paralysis condition known as Guillain-Barre.

Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla thanked the U.S government for declaring a public health emergency, and recently approved the use of Bti—an organic larvicide—meant to fight the spread of the Zika virus.


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