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Scientists Found The Exact Mosquitoes Spreading Zika In Florida

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Three mosquitoes infected with the Zika virus were captured in Miami Beach, Florida, health officials confirmed Friday.

Officials long suspected mosquitoes in Miami Beach were carrying Zika after two locals were infected with the virus. State officials did not reveal how the mosquitoes were captured.

“This is disappointing but not surprising,” Adam Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, said in a press statement Friday. “Florida is among the best (states) in the nation when it comes to mosquito surveillance and control, and this detection enables us to continue to effectively target our resources,” he added.

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 virus test kits to pregnant women in Florida.

Flordia health officials say 576 Floridians are currently infected with Zika, 80 of whom are pregnant women. The state has so far identified 49 cases of people who contracted the virus locally. 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.

There are currently 2,722 cases of Zika virus confirmed in the continental U.S., as well as another 14,110 in American territories, according to the Center for Disease Prevention And Control’s (CDC) most recent update published Wednesday.

Domestic Zika cases include 23 believed to be the result of sexual transmission, one that was the result of laboratory exposure, plus the new cases from local mosquitoes. The vast majority of the cases were from people who traveled to a Zika-prone country, such as Brazil.

Zika virus infections in pregnant women are directly linked to fetal deaths and microcephaly, a birth defect that causes babies to have abnormally small heads, according to the CDC. Some children born with microcephaly can live productive lives, but the infants most affected tend not to survive long. Laboratory studies confirmed the presence of Zika virus in the blood, tissue, brains and amniotic fluid of fetuses and babies diagnosed with microcephaly.

New research published in August scanned babies’ brains to determine how the virus affected them. Researchers found that Zika does far more damage to an infant’s brain than previously believed, targeting the parts of the brain that facilitate communication between the two hemispheres.

Most of the babies in the study had less visible, but no less serious, damage in the part of the brain that controls learning, memory and coordination. This suggests that Zika-infected babies who don’t have obvious initial symptoms may develop problems as they grow.

Zika creates clumps of calcium around blood vessels in the infant’s brain, which prevents parts from forming normally, and physically blocks or destroys connections to other areas of the brain. The virus tends to target the cerebellum and the basal ganglia, inhibiting movement, balance, speech and emotion.

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