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First Zika Virus Transmission Detected in Cuba

Image: People walk among clouds of insecticide after a fumigating truck moved past in Havana

People walk among clouds of insecticide after a fumigating truck moved past in Havana March 1, 2016. Cuba conducts regular fumigation inside homes to check the spread of dengue, a virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito that causes a fever which can be deadly. ENRIQUE DE LA OSA / Reuters

HAVANA -- Cuban officials announced Tuesday night report that the first case of the Zika virus transmission inside the country, ending Cuba's status as one of the last nations in the hemisphere without domestic cases of the disease.

The patient is a 21-year-old Havana woman who had not traveled outside Cuba, state media reported. She was diagnosed with the virus after suffering headaches, fatigue and other symptoms. On Monday, her blood tested positive for Zika and she remains hospitalized.

Cuba had previously reported a handful of cases of the disease in people who had traveled to countries with outbreaks of the mosquito-borne virus, particularly Venezuela, and appeared to have contracted it there.

Image: A military truck carries out fumigation in a neighborhood to stop the breeding of the dengue mosquito in Havana
A military truck carries out fumigation in a neighborhood to stop the breeding of the dengue mosquito in Havana March 1, 2016. ENRIQUE DE LA OSA / Reuters

RELATED: Zika Virus Spreads to 20 Latin American Countries

Cuba and Venezuela have close ties - Venezuela sends millions of dollars a year in subsidized oil in exchange for Cuban medical assistance, and thousands travel between the two countries annually.

Zika is being investigated as a possible agent in cases of microcephaly, a birth defect and condition in which babies are born with unusually small heads and brain damage, and also in cases of Guillain-Barre, a rare condition that sometimes results in temporary paralysis.

Cuba has thrown more than 9,000 soldiers, police and university students into an effort to fumigate for mosquitoes, wipe out the standing water where they breed and prevent a Zika epidemic.

RELATED: Fear of Zika Impacts Daily Life, Travel in U.S., Latin America

President Raul Castro has called for more fumigation and trash collection, turning the Zika fight into a test of the communist government's once-legendary ability to marshal the entire country behind efforts ranging from civil defense to bigger sugar harvests to disease prevention.

Image: CUBA-HEALTH-ZIKA-FUMIGATION
A member of the Cuban army takes part in the fumigation campaign against the Aedes aegypti mosquito to prevent the spread of zika, chikungunya and dengue, in Havana, on February 23, 2016. YAMIL LAGE / AFP - Getty Images

RELATED: Serious Health Complication Blamed on Zika

Still, neighborhoods like Central Havana, where the patient in Tuesday's case lives, are filled with decaying buildings, piles of uncollected trash and pools of standing water.

The Zika announcement comes at a moment of intense international attention on Cuba: President Barack Obama arrives on Sunday as the first sitting U.S. president to visit in nearly 90 years. The Obama administration on Tuesday announced that it was carving a series of broad new exceptions into the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, removing limits on individual travel that experts predicted would lead to a boom in U.S. visitors.

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