Zika may be down but the virus is not out in Florida, where the health department on Friday reported three more locally acquired cases and six travel-related infections. The individuals in all but one of the cases — a travel-related infection in Broward — displayed symptoms last year, the agency said.
Florida also reported two Zika cases in which authorities couldn’t determine where the exposure took place because the people visited Miami-Dade and traveled outside the state to areas where the virus is widespread.
So far in 2017, Florida has reported only 4 travel-related cases and no new local infections. In 2016, the virus also began with a handful of travel-related cases before erupting into a local outbreak in Miami and Miami Beach in the summer and fall.
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Scientists and public health officials have said that Zika is likely to remain in South Florida as long as the region continues to host travelers from areas where the virus is endemic. And though the number of locally acquired cases has dwindled with the winter, public health officials also have warned the virus is likely to rebound when temperatures rise and the rainy season kicks in.
Zika is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, through the virus also can be transmitted through sexual contact and blood transfusions.
In 2016, Florida’s health department reported a total of 1,325 Zika cases, including 1,042 travel-related infections and 262 locally acquired ones. In an additional 21 cases, authorities couldn’t verify where the exposure took place.
Florida does not disclose whether pregnant women with Zika acquired the virus during travel or while in the state. But included among the totals for travel-related and locally acquired cases were 224 pregnant women with Zika in 2016.
Zika poses the greatest threat to pregnant women and their unborn children because, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has concluded, the virus can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Zika also can lead to eye, ear and neurological problems, including Guillain-Barré syndrome.