How Zika spreads (and who’s to blame)
Florida epidemiologists have ruled out travel as a possible source for two Zika infections — one in Miami-Dade and one in Broward — suspected of being the nation’s first cases transmitted by local mosquitoes, State Surgeon General Celeste Philip said Tuesday during a meeting with Gov. Rick Scott and health officials.
“The individuals do not have travel history themselves,” Philip said at the Broward health department in Fort Lauderdale. “That’s the only mode that we feel pretty certain has been ruled out.”
As state health officials reported six new Zika infections on Tuesday, raising the statewide total to 364 people affected this year, Philip asked for patience while Florida epidemiologists undertake the labor-intensive investigation.
She said investigators must identify where the infected individuals live, work and spend their free time — and then track down others who may have come into contact with them. Investigators also are going door-to-door in the Miami-Dade and Broward neighborhoods of the two infected people, interviewing residents and collecting urine samples for testing.
“We understand that there is an interest in knowing as much as possible as soon as possible,” Philip said. “But we have to get it right.”
She also stressed that researchers are still learning about the ways Zika is transmitted, including a recent report of the first female-to-male sexual transmission and a mysterious case in Utah where an elderly man with an unusually high viral load is suspected of spreading the virus to a caregiver.
Philip said the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dispatched a medical epidemiologist, Marc Fischer, to South Florida to help design studies and collect specimens in the testing areas, whose locations have not been disclosed by the health department.
Health department officials also have contacted obstetricians in the areas under investigation and encouraged them to test their pregnant patients for the virus, Philip said. Area blood banks will begin testing blood donations for the Zika virus in a few days, she said.
As the number of infections in Florida climbs almost daily, and the state has already reported its first baby born with a Zika-related birth defect, Scott expressed his “disappointment” with Congress for not yet approving emergency funding for states to combat spread of the disease.
“We are sort of the tip of the spear for the United States for Zika,” Scott said. “We all have to take this seriously.”
Last week, President Barack Obama spoke by phone with Scott about the first suspected case of local transmission in Miami-Dade. The CDC awarded the state $5.6 million the same week. In June, Scott authorized spending up to $26.2 million in state funds to fight the Zika virus.
For questions about Zika, including health impacts, call the Florida health department hotline at 855-622-6735.
Zika infections reported in Florida as of July 26
Number of Cases
Total cases not involving pregnant women
Cases involving pregnant women regardless of symptoms*
* Counties of pregnant women not disclosed.
** Does not include suspected cases of local transmission.
Source: Florida Department of Health