Transmission rates of the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease, appear to be on the rise in Cuba. This is likely a consequence of Hurricane Irma, which caused major destruction and flooding when it struck the country in September. Standing water from heavy rainfall and flooding increases the risk of mosquito-borne diseases as stagnant water serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, notably of the Aedes aegypti species, potential transmitters of the Zika virus along with dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever. Furthermore, health facilities have been damaged and the level of available care may be limited in some areas.
Although the Zika virus is usually relatively benign, links between it and severe birth defects as well as the potentially fatal neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) have been established. The virus is asymptomatic in approximately 80 percent of cases; when symptoms do occur, they generally appear two to seven days after infection, and include fever, headache (behind the eyes), conjunctivitis, rashes, vomiting, and muscle and joint pain. The disease can also be transmitted via sexual intercourse.
Individuals in the Cuba, notably pregnant women and their partners, should take all necessary precautions to mitigate the risks of mosquito-borne illnesses and to eliminate possible mosquito breeding grounds (e.g. pockets of stagnant water or anywhere that rainwater can collect)