The Florida Department of Health confirmed six new cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus on Tuesday afternoon, bringing the statewide total to nine, including four in Miami-Dade County.
All nine cases have been contracted by people who've traveled to Latin America and the Caribbean and brought the disease back to Florida. Three cases were contracted in Haiti, three of them in Venezuela, two in Colombia, and one in El Salvador, according to Mara Gambineri, communications director for the Florida Department of Health. Gambineri did not offer additional information regarding the cases.
"While the CDC has not identified Florida as an area of local Zika risk, the Florida Department of Health is closely monitoring imported disease," the release said.
None of the cases involves pregnant women, who have been deemed particularly vulnerable to Zika because the virus has been linked to a condition called microcephaly, a rare birth defect that may cause babies to be born with smaller brains. In Brazil, where the disease was first detected last October, the number of suspected microcephaly cases has climbed to nearly 4,000.
In Florida, the other confirmed cases involve residents from Hillsborough County, where Tampa is located (two cases); Lee County, home of Fort Myers (two cases); and Santa Rosa County in the Panhandle, near Pensacola (one case).
Zika cannot be transmitted by routine human contact. Rather, it is transmitted when an infested mosquito bites a human, and then another mosquito bites the infected person.
The mosquito that carries the virus, Aedes aegypti, is common in South Florida. It's the same mosquito that has brought dengue fever and chikungunya here.
The disease also can be transmitted through unprotected sexual contact. Texas health officials confirmed Tuesday that a Dallas County resident contracted Zika after having sex with someone who was ill and had recently traveled to Venezuela.
This is the second time the disease has been sexually transmitted in the United States. In 2008, a Colorado researcher caught the virus overseas and unknowingly spread it to his wife.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it will address sexually transmitted incidences of the virus in coming days. Sexual partners can protect themselves by using condoms, health officials say.
Follow Debora Lima on Twitter@dtdlima
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
conjunctivitis (pink eye)
However, a majority of Zika cases are asymptomatic, according to Dr. John Braden of Baptist Health.