Cuba detected the first case of Zika virus transmitted in the country on March 15. A 21-year-old Cuban woman who had not left the country tested positive for the virus, and is currently hospitalized in Havana.
Prior to the diagnosis, Cuba was one of the only remaining countries in the Western Hemisphere without a domestic transmission of Zika, reports Global News.
Zika virus has been linked to birth defects, and may be related to microcephaly, a condition that causes brain damage and impedes development of babies.
The March 15 diagnosis was not the island nation’s first experience with the disease. Prior to this case, Cuba had reported cases of Zika among people who had traveled to Venezuela, and likely contracted the disease there.
Venezuela and Cuba have close ties, and thousands of people travel between the two countries every year. Venezuela is struggling with Zika inside its borders, and faces strains on its healthcare system, reports Washington Post.
Cuba is pushing to combat the spread of Zika, enlisting more than 9,000 soldiers, university students and police to fumigate areas with mosquitoes. Cuban president Raul Castro has called for the country to ramp up sanitation and fumigation efforts in a nation-wide campaign.
Zika virus has affected 52 countries around the world, primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean, reports the World Health Organization. On Feb. 1, the WHO declared the spread of the virus linked to microcephaly a global health emergency.
“The experts agreed that a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly is strongly suspected, though not yet scientifically proven. All agreed on the urgent need to coordinate international efforts to investigate and understand this relationship better,” wrote the WHO in a statement.
“Members of the Committee agreed that the situation meets the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”
Despite the concern generated by Zika, the WHO urged nations around the world not to implement trade or travel bans.
Instead, the WHO says, "At present, the most important protective measures are the control of mosquito populations and the prevention of mosquito bites in at-risk individuals, especially pregnant women.