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PR gov’t health officials: ’16 Zika epidemic is over

Carmen Deseda (right), Rafael Rodriguez-Mercado (right), Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, (center), CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat (left), and other CDC and Health Department officials meet to discuss the latest Zika cases in Puerto Rico and ongoing collaboration and response efforts from the agencies to keep the number of cases down. (Credit: Business Wire)

Puerto Rico Health Department officials confirmed Monday the end of the Zika epidemic on the island, saying levels have substantially decreased since the same reporting period in 2016, with approximately 10 cases reported in each four-week period since April 2017.

The numbers are down from less than 8,000 cases reported in a four-week period at the peak of the epidemic in August 2016, agency officials said.

The updated cases, as well as the reporting and testing methodologies by laboratories run by the Puerto Rico Health Department have been confirmed and reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both agencies will continue collaborating on consistent case definitions and reporting of Zika virus cases in 2017 and beyond, said Dr. Carmen Deseda, Puerto Rico State Epidemiologist.

“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,” said Deseda.

Since 2016, the Health Department and the CDC have been strongly collaborating to control the outbreak and prevent further long-, and short-term public health consequences, said Puerto Rico Health Secretary Rafael Rodriguez-Mercado, adding the local agency “has been committed to a strong public health response.”

“In coordination with the CDC, we have put in place a comprehensive program focused on preparation, prevention, precaution and surveillance,” said Rodriguez-Mercado. “These efforts can be used as a model for other regions experiencing local Zika virus transmission.”

“Puerto Rico has a very strong surveillance system. This will allow Puerto Rico to continue to monitor the number of Zika virus cases, and be ready to rapidly respond to any changing situation,” he added.

Last year’s Zika outbreak had a significant effect on the island’s tourism, which saw a drop in bookings and cancellations of group business, according to prior reports.

“We are pleased that the peak of the Zika virus outbreak in Puerto Rico has come to a close,” said CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat. “However, we cannot let our guard down. CDC will continue to focus on protecting pregnant women and work closely with PRDH to support comprehensive Zika surveillance and prevention efforts on the island.”

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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