On Tuesday night, Cuban officials announced their first case of domestic Zika virus infection in the country. The announcement marked the end of Cuba's longstanding state as one of the remaining nations in the hemisphere without a domestic Zika case transmission.
According to the state media, the blood test of a 21-year-old Havana woman showed positive for the Zika virus on Monday. The woman remains hospitalized after experiencing common Zika symptoms such as fatigue and headaches. According to reports, the woman has not traveled outside of the country.
Previous reports showed that Cuba had a few cases of Zika infection linked to travels outside of the country, particularly those who traveled to Venezuela, where the Zika patients seemed to have contacted the virus from.
In its effort to curb the increasing threats and potential consequences of Zika outbreak, Cuba utilized over 9,000 soldiers as well as police and university students in its fumigation initiatives. The activities included the removal of stagnant water in assumed breeding sites to prevent a potential Zika outbreak.
Soldiers conducted fumigation activities in the streets of Havana in the past few days. According to the residents, the soldiers don't accept excuses anymore when it comes to fumigating the homes in Havana. Some residents raised allergy concerns before or requested to move the fumigation schedule some other day.
The 21-year-old Zika patient lives in Central Havana. The area is littered with pools of stagnant water, moldering buildings as well as uncollected piles of trash.
Apart from being linked to the neurological disease microcephaly, Zika is also being investigated in its alleged link to Guillain-Barre cases, a rare illness that can cause temporary paralysis.
Cuba's Zika announcement came at a time when the eyes of the international community is set on the country. U.S. President Barack Obama will arrive on Sunday to discuss broad trade embargo exceptions between the two countries.
"The travel ban is on life support here, because for all intents and purposes, anybody can go. All these barriers are coming down," said Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake who supports Obama's approach.
Experts theorized that the lifting of individual travel limits would result in many U.S. visitors traveling to the country.
Photo: John Tann | Flickr