Infected travelers reveal Cuba’s ‘hidden’ Zika outbreak

Science | AAAS | 8/22/2019 | Staff
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As Zika virus raced through the Americas and the Caribbean in 2015 and 2016, it infected an estimated 800,000 people and left nearly 4000 newborns with serious brain damage. But by mid-2017, the virus had all but disappeared from the region—or so it seemed. A new analysis of Zika-infected travelers who returned to the United States or Europe in 2017 or 2018 has found that 98% had visited Cuba, which did not report any cases to world health officials at the time the country’s outbreak apparently peaked.

“It was startling,” says Kristian Andersen, a genomic epidemiologist at Scripps Research in San Diego, California, who led the work conducted by 38 researchers from five countries. The group estimates that Cuba had 5707 unreported Zika cases, with most occurring in 2017. Those numbers are similar to counts in other Caribbean islands with comparable populations 1 year earlier.

February - Zika - Outbreak - South - America

In February 2016, the Zika outbreak was so severe in South America and the Caribbean that the World Health Organization (WHO) took the rare step of declaring it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. But by November 2016, cases in the region had fallen steeply and WHO lifted the emergency.

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To better understand the outbreaks that continued to linger, Andersen and colleagues looked at cases of Zika in travelers recorded by the Florida Department of Health and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Between June 2017 and October 2018, there were 155 cases—confirmed by antibody or viral tests—and all but one person had traveled to Cuba.

Timing - Origin - Cuban - Outbreak - Researchers

To further probe the timing and origin of the Cuban outbreak, the researchers sequenced Zika virus from nine infected people who returned to Florida and compared their viruses to ones from other countries in the region....
(Excerpt) Read more at: Science | AAAS
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