On June 11, Dr. Gredia Huerta-Montañez met with Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during his visit to Puerto Rico. The meeting was attended by Dr. Stephen Waterman (Chief of the CDC’s Dengue Branch), Dr. Francisco Alvarado-Ramy (Senior CDC Official for the Zika Response in Puerto Rico), and Dr. Brenda Rivera Garcia (Territorial Epidemiologist for the Puerto Rico Department of Health), among others.
Dr. Huerta-Montañez briefed the group on CRECE and PROTECT projects, with a strong focus on activities related to the Zika virus. She discussed the impact of Zika on the PROTECT cohort of pregnant women, given the associations between the Zika virus and potentially severe neurological birth defects.
Participants engaged in sharing ideas and brainstorming new approaches for improving the messaging of Zika prevention and control, as well as the follow-up of infants and children born to mothers infected with Zika virus during pregnancy. It became apparent that CRECE’s and PROTECT’s expertise, resources, and infrastructure can serve the CDC and the Puerto Rico Department of Health in their efforts to control this epidemic.
On Friday, June 17, the CDC reported that the Zika virus appears to be spreading in Puerto Rico faster than anticipated. The data comes from local blood banks, where 1.1% of units donated in early June were contaminated with the Zika virus—a level of infection that officials were not expecting until late June or early July. Mosquito-spread diseases typically peak later in the summer, so cases of Zika infection can be expected to increase.
Both CRECE and PROTECT have been involved in the effort against the Zika virus since it first arrived in Puerto Rico in January, and will continue to collaborate with partners on and off the island to aid in the measures to help control the virus.