Florida health officials confirm local Zika transmission


ORLANDO: An outbreak of the Zika virus has been confirmed in Florida, marking the first time the virus has been found to be transmitted via infected mosquitoes within the continental U.S. No mosquitoes in the state have tested positive for Zika, but one woman and three men in Miami-Dade and Broward counties likely contracted the virus through mosquito bites, Gov. Rick Scott said during a news conference in Orlando.

More than 1,650 Zika infections have been reported in the U.S., but the four patients in Florida would be the first not linked to travel outside the U.S. mainland. The outbreak has infected at least four people, three men and one woman, through local transmission, Florida officials said today.

“This means Florida has become the first state in our nation to have local transmission of the Zika virus," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said today. Scott said a small area in northern Miami that is about a square mile in size is the only area where the Zika virus is being transmitted from mosquitoes to people.

"We’re being very aggressive at testing people there we are testing the mosquitoes there and we spraying to make sure it’s contained," Scott said. He said health officials do not think that the transmission was ongoing.

The Florida Health Department has been giving Zika prevention kits to pregnant women in the affected area and warning residents to eliminate standing water to help cut down on the risk of mosquitoes breeding near them. The virus has been found to cause serious birth defects, including microcephaly, which is characterized by abnormally small head and brain, leading to significant developmental problems.

"We know this virus is most detrimental to expectant mothers," Scott said. "If you are pregnant or think you might become pregnant contact your OB/Gyn." The state is working with the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to monitor and combat the outbreak, Scott said. He expressed disappointment that Congress did not pass a bill to allocate funding to the CDC to prepare and combat the Zika virus.

"This is not just a Florida issue. This is a U.S. issue it is a national issue. We’re just the front of it," he said during a news conference. A small number of people contracted the Zika virus through sexual transmission within the U.S.