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Zika Outbreak: New Collaboration for Puerto Rican Clinicians

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When it comes to Zika, Puerto Rico currently carries most of disease burden in the US. In December, the Caribbean island confirmed local transmission of the virus, the first in a US jurisdiction. At the end of April, the US’s first Zika-related death was announced in Puerto Rico, the patient dying from complications related to his infection. While we wait to hear of the first incident of mosquito-borne transmission on the US mainland, all eyes remain fixated on Puerto Rico, which is already in the midst of a serious Zika outbreak. Migrant Clinicians Network is stepping up to assure Puerto Rican clinicians are properly equipped to best serve migrant and other underserved populations, who may be at a greater risk of contracting the virus.

As of mid-May, there were over 1,350 reported cases of Zika in Puerto Rico. Almost 170 pregnant women have tested positive for Zika, which has been linked with an increased risk of several birth defects including microcephaly, wherein the baby is born with a smaller-than-average head size. Seven other patients with Zika have been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), in which the immune system damages nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and possible paralysis.  While many patients recover from the syndrome in a matter of months, some have permanent nerve damage, and one in 20 cases of GBS results in death.

Health centers are racing to prepare for an increase in cases as we enter the warmest and most humid months of the year. Migrant Clinicians Network is supporting Puerto Rican clinicians in best approaching the Zika outbreak through a technical assistance training this week.  Through close coordination of all migrant health centers, the Primary Care Association of Puerto Rico and Migrant Clinicians Network together can assure that all clinicians have the education, tools, and resources needed to best serve their populations and to fight against the spread of Zika in the midst of this global health emergency.

“I kindly appreciate the opportunities to collaborate” with MCN, said Daniel Ramos, head of the Asociacion de Salud Primaria de Puerto Rico.

Executive staff of health centers in Puerto Rico are invited to participate in a roundtable discussion on coordinated efforts against Zika in the health centers of Puerto Rico, this Wednesday, June 8th at 2pm AST/EDT.  Please contact Ileana Maria Ponce-Gonzalez, MD, MPH, CNC, MCN’s Senior Advisor for Scientific and Strategic Planning at iponce-gonzalez@migrantclinician.org, or 425-678-8011, to register. Learn more about Zika and the migrant clinician’s role on MCN’s Zika page.

 

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