The Zika virus has arrived at the popular Flordia resort town of Miami Beach, according to emails obtained by The Miami Herald Thursday.
“I have been informed that two Zika cases have been linked to Miami Beach, one a tourist who visited the Beach approximately two weeks ago, and another a resident who also works on the Beach,” Jimmy Morales, the city manager of Miami Beach, said in an email to city commissioners obtained by The Miami Herald.
State health department officials did not respond to The Herald’s questions about active transmission of Zika in Miami Beach. New locally acquired cases of Zika illustrate just how rapidly the mosquitoes carrying the virus are spreading. The tourist town attracted 15.4 million vacationers to the area last year, generating $24 billion in revenue.
Officials have confirmed that seven new local cases of Zika have been reported outside of the zone where mosquitoes carrying the virus were confirmed earlier this month.
Florida is the first U.S. state to report locally transmitted Zika cases. Federal and state health officials have already directed pregnant women to avoid parts of Miami where Zika transmissions have been reported, and they are distributing kits to test for the virus to pregnant women in Florida.
Officials say that 479 Floridians are currently infected with Zika, 63 of whom are pregnant women. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stopped accepting blood donations from the Miami-area in late July until donors are screened for the virus.
Zika virus infections in pregnant women are directly linked to fetal deaths and devastating birth defects such as microcephaly, when a baby is born with an abnormally small head, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Laboratory studies confirmed the presence of Zika virus in the blood, tissue, brains and amniotic fluid of fetuses and babies diagnosed with microcephaly.
State and federal health officials have issued a travel notice, warning pregnant women to stay away from certain areas of downtown Miami after Florida officials announced 10 more people had contracted Zika virus from local mosquitoes.
There have now been 12 confirmed cases of babies born with Zika-related microcephaly in America, and more than 400 pregnant women in the continental U.S. have evidence of Zika infection. Some babies with no immediate signs of problems have also been born in the U.S. to Zika-infected mothers.
There are currently 2,260 cases of Zika virus confirmed in the continental U.S., as well as another 8,035 in American territories, according to the CDC’s most recent update published Wednesday. The domestic American cases include 22 believed to be the result of sexual transmission, one that was the result of laboratory exposure, as well as 14 new cases from local mosquitoes. The vast majority of the cases were from people who traveled to a Zika-prone country, such as Brazil.
The virus is spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which also spread several other dangerous tropical diseases. Mosquitoes kill more people than other humans and are the most deadly insects on the planet.
Army medical researchers announced earlier this month that a Zika virus vaccine was successfully tested on monkeys and human trials are expected soon.
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