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Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen at the Laboratory of Entomology and Ecology of the Dengue Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in San Juan, March 6, 2016. Photo by Alvin Baez /REUTERS

U.S. records first Zika death; Congress breaks without decision on emergency funds

The United States has reported its first Zika-related death in Puerto Rico. The announcement from Puerto Rico’s Health Secretary Ana Rius follows a new report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention on the status of the outbreak on the U.S. territory.

Ruis said a 70-year-old man died from a Zika-related illness in the San Juan metro area in late February, according to the Associated Press. Health officials described the fatal condition as an autoimmune disease, wherein the patient’s antibodies attacked his blood platelet cells. These cells heal cuts in skin or damaged blood vessels. The man died from internal bleeding less than 24 hours after seeking medical assistance.

The new report from the CDC confirmed a single fatality during Puerto Rico’s outbreak due to thrombocytopenia, a deficiency of blood platelets. The CDC did not give further details of the case.

Zika-related deaths are rare. Of the 683 confirmed cases recorded in Puerto Rico since the outbreak blossomed in early November, only one fatality has been noted. Rash is the most common symptom among these patients, followed by muscle pain and headache. Sixty-five of these cases — 10 percent — have involved pregnant women. Puerto Rico has experienced five cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that attacks brain tissue, but no reported cases of microcephaly so far.

Mosquito season is stirring in the southern U.S., and the virus has emerged in a new carrier across the border. Virus hunter have spotted the disease in tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus) in Mexico, according an April 21 update from the Pan American Health Organization. This is the first reported occurrence of Zika virus found in wild tiger mosquitoes in the Western Hemisphere, according to the PAHO.

So far, tropical Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been the primary ferryman for Zika virus, and stateside, this breed resides primarily in Florida and southern Texas. In contrast, tiger mosquitoes extend as far as southern Minnesota, Ohio and New Jersey east of the Rocky Mountains and Northern California in the West.

NASA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research predictions on  Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus abundance based on weather predictions for January through July. Monaghan AJ et al., PLOS Current Outbreaks, (2016)

NASA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research predictions on Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus abundance based on weather predictions for January through July. Monaghan AJ et al., PLOS Current Outbreaks, (2016)

“I think some states and local governments have been focusing on aegypti and less on albopictus, but this finding makes clear that both will require control measures,” Director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Center for Health Security Thomas Inglesby told The Washington Post.

Congress broke session on Friday, for a weeklong recess, without coming to a decision on President Barack Obama’s more than $1 billion request for emergency funding to fight the Zika virus, according to the AP. The White House has allocated $589 million, collected from funds originally meant for the 2014 Ebola crisis, to combat and prepare for the Zika virus.

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