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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, will travel to Puerto Rico March 7-9, 2016 to assess firsthand CDC’s support for the Zika response. As of March 3, 103 cases of Zika virus infection have been reported to ArboNET, a surveillance system managed by CDC and state health departments, among residents in Puerto Rico. Public health experts are concerned the Zika outbreak could potentially lead to the infection of hundreds of thousands of people in Puerto Rico during 2016 based on past experience with dengue and chikungunya, which are transmitted by the same mosquitoes. We have seen increasing evidence of an association between Zika virus infection in pregnant women and microcephaly, a certain type of birth defect that occurs in some pregnancies, with increasing evidence of causality.
CDC is collaborating closely with the Puerto Rico Department of Health on the public health response to the Zika outbreak. Frieden is traveling to the island to emphasize the need for preparedness and prevention to reduce the public health impact of the Zika outbreak in Puerto Rico, with a focus on reducing the risk of Zika virus to pregnant women. During his visit, Frieden will meet with key public health officials and local leaders to assess how CDC and other U.S. government partners can best support Puerto Rico’s response to the outbreak.
Frieden will also meet with CDC staff on the island and visit the CDC’s dengue lab, where Zika testing is underway. He will also tour the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the Puerto Rico Department of Health in San Juan.