Yet health officials also say efforts to stop the spread of the virus are being hampered by mistrust, indifference and fatigue among residents, over what some view as just the latest tropical disease to hit the island.
At a park in the San Jose section of San Juan, 58-year old-Umberto Antonio Guzman leans against a chain-link fence watching baseball practice.
It’s just after sunset, but the tropical air is still hot and sticky.
Guzman says he knows about Zika, and adds that he should be worried about it — but he’s not. He says this outbreak isn’t as bad as when Puerto Rico got hit by chikungunya back in 2014, another tropical disease new to the island.
“The chikungunya was very strong,” Guzman says. “A lot stronger than Zika. With Zika many people don’t even have any symptoms.”
Just a few weeks ago, Guzman’s 15-year-old son, who’s out on the baseball field playing third base, had a bad case of dengue fever.
Guzman shrugs and says Zika is just one more health problem people here have to deal with.
Puerto Rico had its first Zika case in December of last year. Since then, laboratories have confirmed nearly 9,000 more cases in the commonwealth and U.S. territory.
Health officials say the actual number of people who have contracted the virus is much higher. One sign that’s true is that almost 2 percent of blood donations in Puerto Rico are now turning up positive for Zika.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that by the end of the year more than 20 percent of the entire population — or some 700,000 people in Puerto Rico — could be exposed to the virus.
“Among us scientists, it is scary,” says Brenda Rivera Garcia, the state epidemiologist for Puerto Rico. She says this is the first time she’s ever seen a …