The Zika virus has been linked to a surge in births of babies with abnormally small heads. Pregnant women have been advised not to travel to Latin American and Caribbean countries because of the virus.
This mosquito-borne virus has now been found in 19 people in Puerto Rico, although none were pregnant women, the group most at risk, reported the island's health secretary.
Puerto Rico's Health Secretary Ana Rius said, "An infected person must have come, who infected a population of mosquitoes, which in turn infected a local population, permitting the spread of the disease."
So far the virus has not been detected in the continental United States. However, a number of residents have contracted it while traveling and officials are concerned that it could spread if they are bitten by mosquitoes after returning home.
Arkansas became the latest state to raise concerns Tuesday, January 26, 2016, after tests showed a resident had contracted a mild case of Zika while abroad.
Florida, Hawaii and New York have also reported cases in recent weeks of residents who contracted Zika after they traveled to areas impacted by the virus.
Rius said, "Puerto Rico's cases of Zika, a virus carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito which also transmits dengue and chikungunya, were concentrated in the island's southeast. In Brazil, Zika virus infections in pregnant women have been linked to 3,893 births of babies with abnormally small heads, a condition known as microcephaly. We appeal especially to pregnant women, that if they have symptoms of fever, to go immediately to their doctor."
The World Health Organization has warned that the virus could spread rapidly throughout the western hemisphere, except in Chile and Canada, which have no Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
US health authorities have warned pregnant women not to travel to 22 places in Latin America and the Caribbean to avoid exposure to the Zika virus.