Puerto Rico declares the Zika epidemic over

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When Zika virus made headlines because of its link with the neurological disorder microcephaly, it became the latest in a growing list of mosquito-borne viruses for Americans to worry about.

The Zika virus epidemic that’s been plaguing Puerto Rico for the past year is over, the governor’s office announced Monday.

In August, at the peak of the epidemic in the US territory, the US Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency when the number of cases there surpassed 10,000, including more than 1,000 pregnant women.

But there have only been 10 new cases reported since the end of April, according to the Puerto Rico Department of Health.

The mosquito-borne disease, which is also sexually transmitted, is of greatest concern to pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant and their partners because of the devastating consequences it can have on a fetus.

As of May 20, the most recent data available, the Puerto Rico Department of Health reported (PDF) 40,330 confirmed cases of the Zika virus since the outbreak began last year. Four hundred twenty-two of those infected have been hospitalized, and five individuals have died. Among those cases, there have been 52 Zika-related cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a type of temporary paralysis that is caused by viruses including Zika. The Puerto Rico Department of Health has reported only 38 cases of Zika-related birth defects.

Although the epidemic is officially over, mosquito control and surveillance will continue, as will screening and monitoring of pregnant women.

“While there are very low levels of mosquito-borne Zika transmission now, it is important that we remain vigilant to keep these numbers down and support families already affected by Zika,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Carmen Deseda said in a news release Monday announcing the end of the epidemic.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention echoed the need for continued vigilance. Its recommendation that pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant not travel to areas with Zika, including Puerto Rico, remains in effect.

Due to the continued risk of Zika, the agency said the Health and Human Services public health emergency declaration, which was renewed at the end of April, also remains in effect. That declaration is set to expire at the end of July.

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