How Zika spreads (and who’s to blame)
Two new cases of Zika virus infection in Miami-Dade were confirmed Thursday, bringing the statewide total to 24, the Florida Department of Health reported.
Nine cases of Zika infection have been confirmed in Miami-Dade — more than twice the number verified in any other county in the state. All Zika infections were acquired outside the state by travelers, health officials reported, and no cases involve pregnant women, who are considered at greatest risk.
As of Feb. 17, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 84 cases of Zika infection in the continental United States, with no cases transmitted locally within any state. Florida has more confirmed Zika cases than any other state.
During the past year, the virus has spread rapidly throughout the Caribbean, including U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, as well as Mexico, and Central and South America.
Federal health officials do not know: How long Zika virus stays in semen; whether infected men who are asymptomatic can have Zika virus in their semen or transmit the virus through sex; or if a woman can transmit Zika virus to her sex partners.
Physicians and researchers suspect a strong link between the Zika virus and microcephaly, a birth defect that causes smaller than usual heads of babies and possible developmental damage. The CDC has not reported whether any Zika cases in other states involve pregnant women.
Anticipating the first locally acquired infection, the Florida health department activated a Zika information hotline on Feb. 12 (855-622-6735) offering daily updates and answers to questions from the public.
State officials established the hotline after Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong declared a public-health emergency for the virus, with eight counties affected so far: Miami-Dade (9 cases), Broward (4), Alachua (1), Hillsborough (3), Lee (3), Osceola (1), Santa Rosa (1), and St. Johns (1).
As Zika infections have spread across the Western Hemisphere, physicians and researchers have raced to learn more about the virus, how it’s transmitted, and the exact impact on an individual’s health.
On Feb. 12, the CDC issued a new warning about the virus — advising Americans that Zika can be transmitted by a man to his sex partners. The CDC advises men who might have been exposed to Zika to consider abstaining or using a condom.
24 Confirmed Zika virus infections in Florida, more than any state
According to the CDC, Zika symptoms are generally mild with a rash, fever, joint pain, and red eyes. The agency has advised women who are pregnant or seeking to become pregnant to avoid areas where the virus is being transmitted.
Public-health officials advise that the best way to prevent transmission of the virus is for people to protect themselves from mosquito bites by draining standing water, covering their skin with repellant and clothing, and covering windows with screens.
Zika cases as of Feb. 18 (all acquired outside Florida)
Number of Cases
Source: Florida Department of Health