A rare corpse flower, one of the Earth’s largest flowers, is about to bloom as it sits inside the Haupt Conservatory Thursday at the New York Botanical Garden in New York. (Kathy Willens/AP)
HEALTH
Zika running rampant across Puerto Rico

The widespread Zika infection in Puerto Rico is exploding at an alarming rate, with the number of people infected jumping nearly ninefold between February and June, according to a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report provides several indicators showing the rapid spread, especially among pregnant women, who face the greatest risk because Zika infections can cause microcephaly and other severe birth defects.

As of July 7, Zika has been diagnosed in 5,582 people, including 672 pregnant women, the report said. Positive tests for people with suspected Zika virus infection have increased from 14 percent in February to 64 percent in June. Positive tests through blood supply screening also increased, reaching 1.8 percent during the latest week of reporting, which started on July 3. The numbers are likely to be underestimates because 4 out of 5 people infected with Zika don’t have symptoms and don’t seek medical care or are not reported to public health officials. People without symptoms can still infect mosquitoes and might unknowingly transmit the virus through sexual contact.

Outbreaks of mosquito-borne viruses tend to peak in the late summer and fall in Puerto Rico — hotter months with higher rainfall — raising concern that Zika will continue to spread and increase in the coming months. At the current trend, hundreds to thousands more pregnant women in Puerto Rico could become infected with Zika by the end of the year, the report said.

— Lena Sun

FLORIDA
Woman arrested in fatal club shooting

Federal authorities have arrested a 33-year-old woman in connection with the nightclub shooting that left two teens dead and more than a dozen others injured this week in the southwestern Florida town of Fort Myers.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release Friday that Jazmin Challana Barron of Lee County was charged with making false statements on the purchase of a firearm.

Authorities say on Feb. 20 she bought a MasterPiece Arms pistol from a gun dealer and gave a false address. The statement says the gun later was used in the Club Blu shooting on Monday and recovered near the scene. Officers also matched bullet casings found at the scene to the ones used in the pistol.

After the shooting, Barron told agents that the gun had been stolen, then said it hadn’t been stolen.

Barron’s first appearance in court was Friday, and she was released on a $25,000 bond. If convicted on both counts, she could face 15 years in federal prison.

The case is being prosecuted as part of a federal strategy to reduce gun violence.

The shooting happened in the parking lot of a club that was holding a teen night. Sean Archilles, 14, and Stef’an Strawder, 18, were killed.

The shooter or shooters have not been arrested.

— Associated Press

TEXAS
Research facility fined in deaths of primates

A South Texas research facility has been fined after 13 primates died of hyperthermia in overheated rooms, a federal official said Friday.

Covance Research Products in Alice was fined $31,500 for four violations of the U.S. Animal Welfare Act following the 2014 deaths of the cynomolgus monkeys, said Tanya Espinosa, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The monkeys are a type of macaque often used in medical research.

Espinosa said the maximum penalty for a single violation of the law is $10,000, so the maximum fine Covance faced was $40,000.

Two animals died in September 2014, when a thermostat malfunctioned at the facility about 40 miles west of Corpus Christi. The other deaths were caused by a similar incident about a month later, when a thermostat override switch failed.

The USDA issued a citation to Covance saying that it “failed to protect the health and well-being” of the animals. The citation also found that other primates suffered in July 2014, when they weren’t given water or proper care after being flown into Texas for Covance experiments.

— Associated Press

Illinois decriminalizes pot possession: Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed legislation Friday making marijuana possession in small amounts punishable by fines but not jail time. The new law means possessing 10 grams or less of marijuana will be a civil offense, punishable with a fine of up to $200. The governor’s signature makes Illinois the 17th state — and the third largest — to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Board denies release for Saudi prisoner at Guantanamo: A review board has decided that a Saudi prisoner at Guantanamo Bay who attended flight school in the United States and was trained to make explosives by al-Qaeda should continue to be held without charge. The Periodic Review Board said in a decision released Friday that Ghassan Abdallah al-Sharbi should remain in custody at the U.S. base in Cuba because he remains a security threat.

Former Chicago police officer, in prison for murder, gets 40 more years: A former suburban Chicago police officer has been given an extra 40 years in prison for trying to hire someone to kill the prosecutor who put him behind bars for the death of his third wife. Drew Peterson told the judge Friday before he was sentenced that he never wanted Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow killed and claimed to know all along a fellow inmate was recording their conversations. The 62-year-old already is serving a 38-year sentence at the Menard Correctional Center for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Though he is scheduled for parole in 2047, Friday’s sentence must be served consecutively, making it likely Peterson will die in prison.

— From news services