Cuba's health ministry says new cases of Zika virus contracted inside the country have appeared. The Communist-ruled island has been quarantining infected travelers and spraying for mosquitoes that can carry the virus.
Cuban health officials reported two new cases of residents contracting the mosquito-borne Zika virus locally on Wednesday, a setback for the Caribbean country that has taken a series of measures that for weeks had resulted in only a single confirmed case.
"Last August 1, two new locally contracted cases of the Zika virus were diagnosed, corresponding to residents in the city of Holguin who had not traveled abroad, which brings the total up to three," the Health Ministry said in a statement carried by state media.
The ministry said the patients remained hospitalized, in a state of good general health. Epidemiologists are investigating the affected area to identify the possible existence of new cases and continuing the fight against the Aedes strain of mosquito that continues to spread across Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia.
Cuba has activated its military to help fumigate several areas, organize neighborhood watch groups to check for standing water that harbors larvae, and institute proactive health checks at airports and other entry points to the Caribbean island, among other measures.
Florida grapples with more than a dozen cases
Meanwhile, 180 kilometers (110 miles) across the water in the US state of Florida, state officials have confirmed at least 15 cases of Zika virus on the US mainland. In an unprecedented warning, federal health officials directed pregnant women to avoid a Zika-stricken part of the state's largest city, Miami.
The Zika virus can cause severe brain-related defects, including abnormally small heads, a condition known as microcephaly, in children born of women infected by the virus. Even if the brain appears to be developing normally, studies also have linked Zika to stillbirths, poor fetal growth and other problems.
jar/kl (AP, Reuters)