A troubling new milestone has been set in regard to the Zika virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Puerto Rico Department of Health announced Friday that a 70-year-old Puerto Rican man has died from complications of the Zika virus. According to the CDC, this death is the first time in the U.S. or its territories that someone has lost their life with the Zika virus serving as a contributing factor.
Zika-associated deaths are not unheard of, but the concern attached to its outbreak is more heavily weighted on the virus’ believed capacity to cause serious birth defects. Here’s how the CDC breaks down the dangers of this medical issue:
Zika virus disease (Zika) is a disease caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.
At the moment, there are 683 current or past Zika infections in Puerto Rico. Among those 683 are 65 pregnant women, a group that faces increased risks due to Zika’s capacity for birth defects. Away from the Territories, there are currently 426 Zika virus disease cases reported in the States. Unlike Puerto Rico, there have been no locally acquired cases reported.