Elderly man is Puerto Rico’s first Zika-related death

zika virus

The death of the 70-year-old man is the first to be linked to Zika in the US or its territories.


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Sunday May 1, 2016 – The US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and the Puerto Rico Department of Health have revealed that a 70-year-old man was the Caribbean island’s first death linked to the Zika virus.

He died in February but the disclosure has only just been made.

The elderly man had symptoms for about a week, but after recovering, got sick again, according to Tyler Sharp, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dengue Branch in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“He returned to the hospital with signs of a bleeding disorder and was diagnosed with immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). That’s a disorder where a person’s immune system attacks the blood cells, called platelets, that allow clotting,” CNN quoted Sharp as saying.

He added that the relationship between bleeding and Zika might be similar to the link between Zika and Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves.

“To the best of our understanding, the ITP happens after the Zika illness resolves. Then the antibodies begin to cross-react with other cells in the body. In Guillain-Barre, they attack nerves. In ITP, the antibodies attack platelets,” Sharp explained.

Up to mid-April Puerto Rico had recorded 683 Zika cases. Five patients with suspected cases of the paralyzing nerve disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome have tested positive for the Zika virus, according to a report published by the CDC.

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