Florida health officials are investigating a Zika infection in Miami-Dade County that may be the first acquired within the state, according to an announcement late Tuesday.
Health officials reported they are conducting an epidemiological investigation in collaboration with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
No details were provided regarding the potential mode of transmission. Zika is primarily transmitted by the bite of infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, though the CDC has also reported cases of the virus spreading through blood transfusions, from pregnant mothers to their newborn children, and by sexual transmission.
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Florida health officials reported seven new cases of Zika infection on Tuesday, all acquired by people while traveling outside the country. The cases included three in Broward County, three in Orange County and one in Miami-Dade. Miami-Dade has the state’s largest number of Zika infections, with 88 people having contracted the virus this year.
Zika can be difficult to diagnose in part because only one in five infected people show symptoms, which include fever, joint pain, rash and red eyes lasting seven to 10 days.
While the CDC has not confirmed local transmission of Zika anywhere in the continental United States, evidence emerged this week that the virus is spreading in ways that are still a mystery to scientists.
On Monday, the CDC announced that epidemiologists are investigating a case in Utah involving a family member of an elderly man who contracted Zika while traveling outside the country and later died from complications of the disease after returning home.
CDC officials reported that epidemiologists are interviewing and conducting blood tests of the dead man’s family members and healthcare workers who may have had contact with the man, who died in June.
Health officials are also trapping mosquitoes in Utah and testing them for the virus to assess the potential for local transmission. However, the two species known to transmit Zika are not known to be present in Utah.
Florida health officials said Zika prevention kits and repellent will be available for pickup in Miami-Dade and distributed in the area under investigation, which was not disclosed. Zika kits are intended for pregnant women, the health department said. County mosquito control has already conducted spraying and other prevention efforts in the neighborhood being investigated.
Pregnant women and their children are considered to be at greatest risk from the disease. Researchers have concluded that prenatal Zika infection can cause microcephaly and other brain disorders. According to the health department, there are 43 pregnant women in Florida who have contracted the virus this year.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, said, the latest case highlights the failure of Congress to approve emergency funding to fight Zika.
“It’s now imperative that local, state and federal resources be devoted to addressing this challenge,” Buchanan said in a statement. “We must do everything possible to protect the public and keep the virus from spreading. Washington’s failure to approve emergency funding was a national disgrace that needs to be corrected as soon as Congress returns from its summer recess.”
Zika cases confirmed in Florida as of July 19
Number of Cases
Total cases not involving pregnant women
Cases involving pregnant women regardless of symptoms*
* Counties of pregnant women are not disclosed.
Source: Florida Department of Health