Zika virus in America as Florida governor confirms 4 cases came from local mosquitoes

  • Gov Rick Scott said all four mystery cases were locally transmitted
  • No mosquitoes yet tested positive for Zika but there’s no other explanation
  • Three men and one woman have caught it locally in 1-mile radius in Miami
  • Scott said he will treat Zika ‘like a hurricane’, spending millions of dollars

Zika has reached America, Florida governor Rick Scott has confirmed.

All four of the mysterious Zika cases diagnosed this month almost certainly came from local mosquitoes, Governor Scott announced on Friday. 

His words confirm fears that the virus which is plaguing Latin America is now in the continental United States.

So far three men and one woman have been infected all within a one-mile radius in northern Miami.

While no mosquitoes have tested positive for the virus, health officials can find no other explanation for the infections.

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WHAT CAN YOU DO TO AVOID ZIKA? 

If you are pregnant – particularly if you are living in Miami – see your OB/GYN for advice. 

At home, wear insect repellent.

Also ensure there are no cups, buckets, gutters, or containers of any kind that have gathered standing water. 

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes – which most commonly carry the virus – breed in water. 

Eliminating standing water is crucial to stopping the spread.

As far as scientists currently know, the only way to spread the virus is through sex or a mosquito bite. 

To date, all of the 1,400 patients being treated for Zika in the United States contracted the virus abroad, except for 14 who got it through sex. 

But none of the four patients under investigation had traveled to a Zika-infected region, nor had they had sex with a Zika-infected patient.  

As a result, Governor Scott said, it is almost certain that local mosquitoes have picked up the virus, possibly by biting someone who contracted the infection abroad before coming home.  

The fact that no mosquitoes have tested positive is unsurprising.

Authorities have been spraying the area to kill the mosquitoes before collecting them for tests. 

Speaking at the Orange County Health Department on Friday, Scott urged all residents within or near the area to get tested. 

He said he ‘will not hesitate’ to pour tens of millions of state funds into fighting the virus, which has already absorbed $ 26.2 million a Florida’s coffers. 

Comparing it to a hurricane, Scott vowed to take an ‘aggressive’ approach to tackle the outbreak. 

‘Since our first travel-related case in February, Florida has taken an aggressive approach and committed state and local resources to combat this virus,’ he said at a press conference. 

‘Just like with a hurricane, we have worked hard to stay ahead of the spread of Zika and prepare for the worst, even as we hope for the best.’

His words come a day after the FDA suspended all blood donations in Florida to stop the spread. 

The freeze will remain in place until each individual unit of blood collected in the two counties can be tested for Zika.

Meanwhile, blood-taking establishments have been ordered to implement an approved pathogen inactivation technology, to monitor for viruses themselves. 

So far three men and one woman have been infected all within a one-mile radius in northern Miami (pictured)

So far three men and one woman have been infected all within a one-mile radius in northern Miami (pictured)

Zika is a concern for pregnant women as they face a risk of giving birth to a child with a malformed skull and brain. Officials have urged expectant mothers to avoid travelling to infected areas

Zika is a concern for pregnant women as they face a risk of giving birth to a child with a malformed skull and brain. Officials have urged expectant mothers to avoid travelling to infected areas

ARE YOU IN THE ZIKA ZONE? MAPS SHOW CITIES AT RISK OF OUTBREAK 

CITIES AT RISK

The first map shows which cities are most likely to get Zika locally. 

It is based on data from the Public Library of Science (PLOS). 

Sat on the southern coast, Miami has the perfect climate for the Aedes mosquito, which has spread Zika across Central and South America.

Tampa’s chance of a Zika outbreak is 9.1 out of 10; Orlando’s is 9.4 out of 10.

No other cities are above 9.

New York City’s risk is 8.5 out of 10, according to the data.

Houston, Jacksonville, Atlanta, and Charleston all have a risk higher than 8 out of 10. 

HOW FAR ZIKA MOSQUITOES COULD GO 

The second map shows the reach of the two mosquitoes that typically carry Zika. 

The Aedes aegypti – which spreads other tropical diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever – is most commonly associated with Zika. It thrives in warm climates.

Its cousin, the Aedes albopictus has also been linked to Zika. Worryingly for Americans in northern states, this species can survive in cooler temperatures.

Consequently, the albopictus has a much further reach than the aegypti.

Based on data from the CDC, the albopictus – unlike the aegypti – has the potential to touch the upper and outer reaches of the Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado), all of the Northeast (Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine), and Hawaii.

The only state the aegypti can reach which the albopictus cannot is Utah.

However, there are 10 states with neither of the two species could reach: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Alaska.

Though five of these states have reported case of Zika infections, it would be highly unlikely that Zika-carrying mosquitoes could thrive there.

Any spread would be minimal. 

The FDA also said anyone who has traveled to Miami-Dade or Broward county in the past four weeks should be temporarily barred from donating blood.

‘As a prudent measure to help assure the safety of blood and blood products, FDA is requesting that all blood establishments in Miami-Dade County and Broward County cease collecting blood immediately,’ the FDA said in a statement on Thursday.

‘Additionally, FDA recommends that adjacent and nearby counties implement the precautions above to help maintain the safety of the blood supply as soon as possible,’ said the federal agency.

 Florida has already seen 381 cases of Zika, all involving people who were infected while traveling to parts of the world where the virus is circulating.

If a pregnant woman is infected with Zika, it raises the risk of her bearing an infant with microcephaly, a permanent defect which results in children being born with unusually small heads.

The CDC is now warning all pregnant women to get tested. 

In newly fine-tuned guidelines, center has urged doctors to at least ask pregnant women if they or their sex partner were in an outbreak area, and suggested expanded use of a sophisticated blood test.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ZIKA 

WHAT IS ZIKA?

The Zika (ZEE’-ka) virus was first discovered in monkey in Uganda in 1947 – its name comes from the Zika forest where it was first discovered. 

It is native mainly to tropical Africa, with outbreaks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. 

It appeared in Brazil in 2014 and has since been reported in many Latin American countries and Caribbean islands.

Now, it has also reached the United States. 

HOW IS IT SPREAD?

The World Health Organization says Zika is rapidly spreading in the Americas because it is new to the region.

People aren’t immune to it, and the Aedes mosquito that carries it is just about everywhere – including along the southern United States.

Canada and Chile are the only places without this mosquito. 

MOSQUITOES

It is typically transmitted through bites from the Aedes species of mosquitoes.

They are aggressive feeders, commonly biting multiple people in quick succession, fueling the spread of the virus.  

The Aedes aegypti – which spreads other tropical diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya and yellow fever – is most commonly associated with Zika. It thrives in warm climates. 

Its cousin, the Aedes albopictus has also been linked to Zika. Worryingly for Americans in northern states, this species can survive in cooler temperatures. 

Unlike some other types of mosquitos, Aedes mosquitos are active during the daytime.

They are most active during mid-morning and then again between late afternoon and nightfall.

SEX 

Scientists have found Zika can be transmitted sexually – from both men and women.  

Couples should abstain or wear condoms for eight weeks if either partner has traveled to a country with a Zika outbreak, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

The first case of sexually-transmitted Zika during the current outbreak was reported in Texas at the beginning of February.

Pregnancy: The infection can take two routes - through the placenta and through the amniotic sac

Pregnancy: The infection can take two routes – through the placenta and through the amniotic sac

The woman became infected after sexual contact with a man who had caught the virus in another country.

On July 15, it was confirmed that women can pass the virus to men after such a case was seen in New York City.

There are also reported cases of sexual transmission in France and Canada.

Prior to this outbreak, there was a case of sexual transmission of Zika in 2008 when researcher from Colorado, who caught the virus overseas, infected his wife on returning home. 

MOTHER TO BABY

A mother can pass the virus to her unborn baby during pregnancy. 

There are two ways this can happen, according to a recent study. 

Through the placenta: During the first trimester, it can travel through the placenta by infecting numerous placental cells – something very few viruses can do. 

This route is the most damaging to the fetus, and is most likely to leave the child with birth defects, including microcephaly. 

Through the amniotic sac: In the second and third trimester, the virus can make its way through the amniotic sac. 

This route is less likely. The baby would have a much smaller risk of birth defects at this stage than if it were infected in the first trimester. 

During childbirth: Since the virus can live in the woman’s womb lining, there is a chance the baby can become infected when it is born.

ARE THERE SYMPTOMS?

The majority of people infected with Zika virus will not experience symptoms. 

Those that do, usually develop mild symptoms – fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes – which usually last no more than a week.

There is no specific treatment for the virus and there is currently no vaccine to protect against infection, though several are in the developmental stages. 

CAN THE SPREAD BE STOPPED?

INSECT REPELLENTS: Individuals can protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellents, and wearing long sleeves and long pants – especially during daylight, when the mosquitoes tend to be most active, health officials say. 

THROW OUT WATER: Eliminating breeding spots and controlling mosquito populations can help prevent the spread of the virus.

This week, America began its first human trials for a vaccine. 

VACCINES? Inovio Pharmaceuticals administered its first dose of an experimental Zika vaccine to a human volunteer.

The firm has approval from the US Health Department to carry out tests on 40 people.

It has already had successful results from tests on mice and monkeys.

The selected participants are based in Philadelphia, Quebec City, and Miami – the most at-risk city in America.

Results are expected to come later this year.

Health | Mail Online