One new case of Zika virus infection was confirmed in Broward County on Friday, raising the statewide total to 67 people who have contracted the infectious disease, the Florida Department of Health reported.
Florida has the most cases of Zika virus infection in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reported that as of March 16 there were 258 people confirmed with the disease.
As summer approaches, scientists are concerned that mosquito season will lead to an increase in Zika infections — particularly in the Sunshine State.
Analyzing weather patterns and the prevalence of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes capable of transmitting Zika, researchers found that South Florida and South Texas — where other mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue and chikungunya, have already spread locally — are at a risky intersection.
To date, Zika has not been spread by mosquitoes in the continental United States. As of March 16, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 258 cases of Zika virus infection.
Both regions have abundant populations of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes almost year-round, and they are more likely to host travelers who have contracted the disease.
Zika virus, now a pandemic, has spread explosively across Latin America and the Caribbean, with more than 20 countries reporting local transmissions.
However, researchers publishing their work in the journal PLOS Currents note that multiple factors determine when and where viruses emerge, including the prevalence of air conditioning, screened windows, and running water.
“Even if Zika virus arrives in the United States,” they wrote, “transmission can be mitigated and reduced through the use of vector control strategies.”
Even if Zika virus arrives in the United States, transmission can be mitigated.
Research published in PLOS Currents
In anticipation of Zika virus infections intensifying in South Florida, the University of Miami will host a forum for public health officials, physicians and scientists on March 23 to discuss the medical implications of the disease, research findings and local preparedness.
So far, all of the cases in the continental United States were acquired by people traveling outside the country, though at least six cases — including one in Florida’s Polk County — were sexually transmitted. At least 18 cases, including four in Florida, are among pregnant women.
Pregnant women are at greatest risk because of recent findings establishing a link in Brazil between an outbreak of Zika and a concurrent spike in microcephaly, a birth defect in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head and an underdeveloped brain.
There is no specific medicine or vaccine for Zika virus, which causes symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes lasting from a week to 10 days, according to the CDC. The agency advises that the best way to prevent acquiring the disease is for people to protect against mosquitoes using repellants such as DEET and for men who have contracted the disease to abstain from sex or use a condom.
Zika virus cases in Florida as of March 18
Number of Cases
Cases involving pregnant women*
* Counties of pregnant cases not disclosed.
Source: Florida Department of Health