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Puerto Rico Confirms First Case of Zika Virus

Update Date: Jan 02, 2016 09:17 AM EST

Health officials have confirmed the first case of Zika on the island of Puerto Rico.

"There is no reason for alarm, and the public should continue to take commonsense steps to avoid mosquito bites," Puerto Rican Congressman Pedro Pierluisi said in a statement on Thursday.

Pierluisi stated that experts with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be visiting the island before the end of the month to make sure that local doctors know how to "properly diagnose and treat the virus."

The CDC did issue a warning for all tourists who are planning on visiting Puerto Rico as well as other the countries that have been affected by the virus.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that has recently been tied to an increased risk of a neurological disorder known as microcephaly in newborns. In Brazil, where the virus has become more widespread, health officials have advised women to not get pregnant. There have been more than 2,700 cases of babies born with this brain condition in 2015, which is significantly higher than the rate recorded in Brazil in 2014. Experts, however, have not concluded that Zika is directly causing the increase in microcephaly.

"We are looking at the beginning of an epidemic in a country that has in between 200,000 and 300,000 births per year, which shows how worried we are. It's a virus we don't know that much about," said Rodrigo Stabeli, vice president of the Rio de Janeiro-based Fiocruz research institute, reported by CBS News. "We are preparing for the unknown."

The virus has also been reported in other South American countries as well as the Caribbean.

Since there is no vaccine for the virus, the best way to protect oneself is to use insect repellant and to cover up. The mosquito that carries the virus, the Aedes aegypti, is known for biting a lot during the day, but it also can attack at night. This mosquito also tends to carry dengue fever and chikungunya.

An infection is characterized by symptoms such as fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, vomiting, pain in the eyes and red eyes. Symptoms can manifest within three to seven days after getting infected.

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