Florida's first case of sexually transmitted Zika virus was confirmed Wednesday by Gov. Rick Scott, who immediately called on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to host a second conference call with state health departments to discuss measures for preventing the spread of the infectious disease.
State health officials reported two new Zika virus infections in Polk County in Central Florida, including one case that was sexually transmitted from an individual who had traveled outside the country.
The state’s latest infections are the first confirmed in Polk County. The Florida Department of Health wouldn’t say whether the cases are related.
Statewide, a total of 52 people have contracted the virus since Florida began reporting infections on Feb.9. Miami-Dade has 24 confirmed cases, the most in the state, followed by Broward with seven.
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All of Florida’s Zika virus infections had been contracted by people traveling outside the country — until Wednesday.
“Now that there is a person-to-person transmitted case of the Zika virus in Florida ... it is imperative that the most up-to-date information is available so we can stay ahead of the possible spread of the Zika virus in Florida,” Scott said in a written statement.
Florida’s first reported case of sexually transmitted Zika followed a statement this week by Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, that the virus spreads through sex more often than scientists had understood.
“Reports and investigations from several countries strongly suggest that sexual transmission of the virus is more common than previously assumed,” she said.
The CDC first warned on Feb. 12 that Zika could be transmitted by a man to his sex partners. The agency has since updated its recommendations on Zika and sexual transmission to include additional guidance.
In known cases of likely sexual transmission, the CDC said the men had Zika symptoms. It is not known if a woman can transmit Zika to sex partners.
But the virus can be spread before, during and after men have symptoms, which can include rash, joint pain, fever and red eyes typically lasting seven to 10 days.
The virus can be present in semen longer than in blood, the CDC said, though scientists do not yet know how long the virus remains in semen in men who have had Zika.
Of the cases confirmed in Florida, three people are still exhibiting symptoms. Four of the Florida cases have been among pregnant women, who are considered to be at greatest risk from the virus because of a strongly suspected link between an outbreak of Zika in Brazil and a concurrent spike in microcephaly.
The CDC advises men who might have been exposed to Zika to consider abstaining or using a condom. Zika is primarily transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquito bites, though spread of the virus also has been reported through blood transfusions.
Zika cases as of March 9 (all acquired outside Florida)
Number of Cases
Cases involving pregnant women*
*Counties of pregnant women will not be shared.
Source: Florida Department of Health