The first official Zika-related death in Puerto Rico was confirmed on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), being this the first one to happen in the United States.
The patient diagnosed and killed by the virus was an old man who lived in the San Juan metro area. The man who contracted Zika, was treated for symptoms, and recovered in less than a week, said Tyler Sharp, an epidemiologist at the CDC Dengue Branch in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Puerto Rican health officials said that the man had a complication of the Zika virus, and formed antibodies in response to the virus, and those antibodies attacked his blood platelet cells, which made him suffer from internal bleeding.
The CDC reported on Friday that a patient died after developing severe immune thrombocytopenic purpura, a disorder that makes the person’s immune system attack the blood cells, causing low levels of platelets that help blood clot.
“As an elderly man, this individual did have some underlying health conditions, but they were not life-threatening and not likely to have led to his death,” Sharp said.
Internal bleeding associated with Zika virus
Sharp also added that this is not the first case of internal bleeding associated with the Zika virus, saying that it was actually the ninth case known so far. Four cases have been diagnosed with immune thrombocytopenic purpura in French Polynesia, one in Suriname and tree in Colombia, says Sharp, adding also that the people in the French Polynesia and Suriname survived, but those in Colombia did not.
A similar condition to the bleeding associated with Zika virus has also been found in some patients. There is a rare relationship between the Zika virus and the Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves.
According to a report published by the CDC, the mosquito-borne illness has been tested positive in five patients with suspected cases of the paralyzing nerve disorder.
Over 6,000 specimens have been tested since the finding of Puerto Rico becoming the first United States jurisdiction to report a death related to the Zika virus, showing that the island has 707 confirmed Zika cases, including 89 pregnant women with symptoms of the virus and one death. Nine of those cases, or 1 percent, also showed signs of low blood platelets.
CDC officials estimate that 700,000 people could get infected across Puerto Rico by the end of the year, which means that 20 percent of the population is at risk of getting the virus, based on previous outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya, related viral diseases.