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Puerto Rico: More than 18,000 chikungunya infections, 5 related deaths

San Juan, Nov 21 (EFE).- Puerto Rico has accumulated more than 18,000 suspected cases of chikungunya and five deaths linked to that virus, the U.S. commonwealth’s Department of Health said, citing figures for the week ended Oct. 28.

Of those cases, 3,385 have been reconfirmed at laboratories of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while in only 31 of them was the disease believed to have been contracted outside of Puerto Rico, the department said Thursday.

Authorities in recent weeks have observed a slowdown in the rate of spread of the virus, which reached its peak in August.

The figures include four people who were infected with chikungunya at the time of their deaths, which does not mean the virus directly caused their demise.

The statistics, however, do not include the case of a newborn who died last week after contracting chikungunya from his infected mother during vaginal birth.

Government epidemiologist Brenda Rivera provided that explanation, saying the child died six days after birth but without giving details on when or where the death occurred.

In July, authorities on the island declared an epidemic of chikungunya, a virus for which no vaccines or specific drug treatments exist and which is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also carries dengue.