Florida’s Zika count spiked on Monday with two more local cases confirmed in Miami-Dade County — raising to 30 the number of infections spread by mosquitoes in the state — and 28 new travel-related cases, according to health officials.
Florida now has confirmed at least 529✔ cases of Zika, including 59 pregnant women, since the state began tracking the rapidly spreading disease this year. Local transmission of the virus, however, has been reported only in South Florida’s Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
In a written statement announcing the new local cases, Florida Gov. Rick Scott held firm that a designated zone north of downtown Miami remains the first and only place with active spread of Zika in the continental United States — even as three new cases have emerged outside that area.
“We still believe local transmissions are only occurring in an area that is less than one square mile in Wynwood,” Scott said in the statement.
Florida’s Department of Health said there are four active investigations under way outside of the designated zone in Wynwood, including three cases in Miami-Dade and one in Palm Beach. Two earlier investigations into suspected local transmission in Broward and Miami-Dade have been closed with no further infections reported.
Health officials do not provide details about people infected with Zika, so it’s unclear where the three suspected local infections outside of Wynwood are located. However, State Surgeon General Celeste Philip said on Aug. 4 that investigators were monitoring at least one locally transmitted case in Southwest Miami-Dade.
Of the two new local cases reported on Monday, one person was exposed in the Wynwood area and a second was infected outside of that zone.
Florida health officials emphasize that one case does not mean active transmission is occurring in an area. Instead, health officials investigate each case by interview, and taking blood and urine samples from close contacts and neighbors around each person infected.
The Zika response plan published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June notes that “a starting point” for defining an area of local transmission is two or more infections (not related to travel or sex) among people who do not share the same household and which occurred in a one-mile diameter over one month.
Florida health officials said they have not yet determined where the person in Palm Beach or the three people outside the one-square-mile zone in Miami-Dade contracted the virus.
Scott’s statement noted that the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has tested more than 25,000 mosquitoes for Zika virus statewide and none have come back positive. The governor also said he has been in touch with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who last week asked the governor to reimburse the county for $6 million spent on aerial spraying and other efforts to exterminate the mosquito species that carries Zika.
Among the resources the health department will send to Miami-Dade are more commercial pest control companies to help with mosquito spraying, according to Scott’s announcement.
As Florida continues to spend federal and state resources to combat Zika’s spread, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio told the Miami Herald’s editorial board on Monday that he supports the creation of a special fund for responding to infectious disease outbreaks, which would make it easier for federal agencies to act without having to wait for Congress.
The House of Representative’s health spending bill for 2017 includes a proposal for an “infectious disease rapid response reserve fund” of $300 million, which is currently not included in the Senate version. But Rubio said he and other senators have been working on a similar reserve fund.
“If there’s an outbreak anywhere in the world, it is just a matter of time before it enters the U.S. some way, some how,” Rubio said. “I do support the creation of a fund so that in case of a future pandemic or outbreak, we can move on it without having to have all these votes in Congress.”
Zika cases reported as of Aug. 15
Number of Cases
Total cases not involving pregnant women
. . .
. . .
Cases involving pregnant women regardless of symptoms*
* Counties of pregnant women are not identified.
** Does not include locally transmitted cases.
Source: Florida Department of Health