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article imageZika virus update: Puerto Rico declares state of emergency

By Karen Graham     Feb 5, 2016 in Health
Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed an executive order Friday declaring a public health emergency in Puerto Rico due to the Zika virus. At least 22 people in the U.S. territory have been reported to be infected with the mosquito-borne virus.
The Zika virus is continuing to spread rapidly across Central and South America, raising additional concerns for the well-being of pregnant women. The U.S. Virgin Islands has also reported a case of Zika virus.
Puerto Rico's State Emergency and Disaster Administration is creating a task force that includes federal and state officials, health-related organizations, volunteers, and communities, among others, to deal with the crisis, reports Outbreak News. The government has also ordered a price freeze on products needed to fight the Zika virus.
New cases include pregnant women and those with Guillain-Barre syndrome
Earlier today, according to the Jamaica Observer, Colombia's National Health Institute (INS) reported that three people had died from a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome after contracting the Zika virus.
In Puerto Rico, a woman in her first trimester of pregnancy has been infected with the Zika virus, and a man who was diagnosed with the Zika virus has now developed Guillain-Barre syndrome. ABC News reports the rare neurological disorder is usually associated with viral or bacterial infections.
At the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) meeting convened on Wednesday in Montevideo, Uruguay, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, told health ministers more resources were needed to fight the spread of the Zika virus across the Americas, as well as the increase in microcephaly and other complications. PAHO is asking the international community for $8.5 million.
New Recommendations on blood transfusions may be likely
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) released a statement to ABC News saying they intend to "rapidly implement appropriate donor deferral recommendations" to safeguard the blood supply in the United States.
“Blood donor deferrals serve as an important measure to protect the United States’ blood supply," FDA officials said in a statement. "The FDA also intends to put in place recommendations to help maintain a safe blood supply in United States territories where the virus is present. In the meantime, we fully support the blood banking industry’s voluntary recommendations that potential blood donors be deferred for 28 days after returning from travel to areas where Zika is endemic.”
Right now, blood donors are on an "honor system" when it comes to donating blood if they have been to a country where the Zika virus is present. On Thursday, Reuters said Brazil medical authorities have confirmed that two cases of the Zika virus were transmitted through blood transfusions. In one of the two cases, genetic sequencing confirmed the transmission of the virus through the blood transfusion.
Zika virus infections in the U.S. and Canada
There are about 54 people infected with the Zika virus in the United States, and in all except one case, the infection was acquired outside the country. In the one case in Dallas, Texas, the virus is believed to have been transmitted through sexual contact from an infected traveler to a partner.
In Florida, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in five counties. Florida has the greatest number of cases in the U.S. with 12 people confirmed to have the virus. The emergency order also opens the way for thousands of tests to help in identifying the disease.
According to Canada's public health officer, there have been four confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Canada, two in British Columbia, one in Alberta and a newly diagnosed case in Quebec as of February 5. All four cases were in travelers who had traveled to countries where the Zika virus was present.
There is some concern about the virus showing up in Canada. Mark Ardis, a scientific advisor with G.D.G. Canada, told the Weather Network, “The mosquitoes are not in Canada yet. There hasn’t been anything found in any trappings in Ontario and Quebec that I know of. There is a sense of relief knowing that we don’t have the mosquitoes that are vectors for the disease.”
With Canada experiencing mild winters, there is the possibility that Aedes albopictus could thrive in some conditions. “It is a possibility and we discover new species every other year with our laboratory and know that new species are moving northward," says Ardis.
More about zika virus update, Puerto rico, public health emrgency, GuillainBarre
 
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