The Zika virus, which caused a panic in Miami last summer, is back, but only in the form of one sexually transmitted case caused by a mosquito bite in another country, the Florida Department of Health reported on Friday.
Although the patient has not recently traveled, officials said his or her partner had just traveled to several countries, including Cuba, which is still battling the mosquito-borne virus.
The couple lives in Miami-Dade County, but the health department did not specify where. Both partners tested positive for Zika.
Though there is no evidence of ongoing, active transmission of Zika anywhere in Florida, officials are warning Floridians to take precautions if they or their partners have recently traveled.
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“If the department identifies an area where ongoing, active transmission of Zika is taking place, we will notify the public immediately,” the department said.
Florida’s first reported sexually transmitted Zika infection of 2017 occurred in Pinellas County. Similar to the Miami-Dade case, the person who acquired Zika through sex had not traveled outside Florida but the partner had recently visited Cuba and fell ill. Both people tested positive for Zika, the state said on Aug. 1.
The first locally transmitted case was reported in Manatee County on the Gulf Coast on Oct. 12. An epidemiological investigation by the health department suggested that a traveler contracted Zika in Cuba, was bitten by a mosquito in Florida, and the insect then spread the virus to the infected person’s partner.
Miami became the first city in the United States to experience the active spread of Zika by mosquitoes last summer, after months of travel-related infections were reported in the state.
So far this year, 205 Zika infections have been reported in Florida. Of those, 172 are travel-related and only one was locally acquired. In addition, the state reports 32 cases from undetermined exposure in 2016 that tested positive in 2017. Locally acquired infections from exposure in 2016 that tested positive in 2017 number 11. There are 112 pregnant women with lab evidence of Zika.
Compared to 2016, when state health officials reported 1,456 infections, including 285 spread by mosquitoes in 45 Florida zones, the Zika menace has waned considerably. The crisis was so dire last summer that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an unprecedented domestic travel advisory warning pregnant women to avoid Miami-Dade County because the virus can cause birth defects. That warning was lifted in June. A travel warning for Brownsville, Texas, was lifted Aug. 29.
Zika is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus species of mosquito, both of which are prevalent in Florida. The Zika outbreak began in Brazil in 2015 and spread rapidly through the Caribbean, leading to a spike in babies with severe birth defects born to mothers infected with Zika while pregnant. Puerto Rico was hit hard with 35,000 cases reported on the island in 2016. But Zika cases in Brazil are down 95 percent compared to last year and the virus is in retreat throughout South America and the Caribbean — probably because people have developed resistance to it — which is one of the keys to the drop in Florida, health experts say.
About four of five people who get Zika do not feel symptoms or have mild reactions which can include fever, joint pain, red eyes and a rash. There is no vaccine for the virus.
“As we’ve seen with [diseases such as] chikungunya and dengue, it is not unlikely that we will experience small outbreaks of Zika in the future,” Mara Gambineri, spokeswoman for the state’s health department, warned in August.
To prevent mosquitoes from multiplying, officials recommend draining standing water, using screens, applying repellent and requesting a mosquito inspection or reporting a nuisance by calling 311.
Total number of Zika Infections, 2017
Travel-Related Infections of Zika 2017
Locally Acquired Infections 2017
Undetermined exposure in 2016, tested 2017
Locally Acquired Infections exposed in 2016; and tested in 2017*
Pregnant Women with Lab-Evidence of Zika reported in 2017
*These cases are included on the Zika website under the 2016 totals.
Note, these categories are not mutually exclusive and cannot be added together.
Data provided by the Florida Department of Health.