Health officials in Florida are investigating a new case of Zika virus that reportedly originated in America.
CBS News reported Wednesday that officials are eyeing mosquitoes as the culprit, since the unidentified individual has not traveled to affected regions, and the virus doesn’t appear to be sexually transmitted.
Dr. Jon LaPook, CBS News chief medical correspondent, says there’s “no way” the virus could have come from a South American mosquito.
“They only travel about a half a mile in their whole life. It would be from a person who was infected, say in Brazil, coming up here to the United States,” LaPook told a CBS morning television program Wednesday. “An uninfected mosquito in the United States would bite that person, become infected and then turn around and bite an uninfected person.”
This isn’t the first time Florida has tackled a mosquito-related illness. Florida started genetically modifying mosquitoes in 2015 to help combat other mosquitoes that were carrying dengue fever. The modified mosquitoes cleared a big hurdle this March by gaining FDA approval, according to arstechnica.com.
The FDA also recently released a report that found genetically modified mosquitoes — developed to fight Zika — would have “no significant impact” on the environment or people.
Zika virus first burst onto the national stage in February of 2016, when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global emergency. Scientists discovered Zika in 1947, but it wasn’t until 2014 when the virus started spreading around the world. The virus spread to French Polynesia, Easter Island, the Cook Islands, and New Caledonia in 2014, according to WHO.
The virus is associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a “rare disorder in which [the] body’s immune system attacks nerves,” as defined by the Mayo Clinic. It is also linked to microcephaly, which produces undersized skulls in infants.
Lapook said that the “next big step” is to examine local mosquitoes for the Zika virus. “And also to test people in the neighborhood and see if, somehow, they have become infected — because remember, 80 percent of people who get infected have no symptoms.”
LaPook tells people to use insect repellent and to stay indoors, if possible, to try and halt the spread of the disease.
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