SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Health officials announced Friday that a second elderly person has died of Zika in Puerto Rico as the U.S. territory battles what federal authorities call a silent epidemic.
The victim was a 75-year-old man who was hospitalized and already had several unrelated health conditions, according to Health Secretary Ana Rius. She said no more details would be provided, and health officials did not respond to requests for further comment.
Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they would soon provide comment.
The first death was reported in late April and involved a 70-year-old man from the San Juan metro area. He suffered internal bleeding after developing a condition in which antibodies that formed in response to a Zika infection began attacking blood platelet cells. At the time, Rius said there were three other cases of the condition known as severe thrombocytopenia and that those patients recovered.
Puerto Rico has a total of 8,776 Zika cases, with 1,480 new cases reported this past week. There are now 901 pregnant women with Zika, which has been linked to severe birth defects. The director of the CDC has said he is concerned many of those women could give birth to babies with microcephaly.
A total of 88 people in Puerto Rico have been hospitalized because of Zika, and 27 have been diagnosed with a temporary paralysis condition called Guillain-Barre that has been linked to the mosquito-borne virus.
The CDC recently urged Puerto Rico to spray with the insecticide naled, which was used this week in a Miami neighbourhood. However, Puerto Rico’s governor did not authorize naled’s use because of health and environmental concerns. Instead, he said the government would use Bti, an organic larvicide.
Rius asked people not to let down their guard with Zika, given that eight of 10 people do not show symptoms, which can include fever, rash and conjunctivitis.
“Even if we do not feel sick, we have to protect ourselves,” she said. “Each and every one of us is a key player in this fight.”