Public health officials say Florida is now officially Zika-free, but are stressing that the mosquito-borne virus may rear its head again down the line.
“There have been no new cases of local Zika virus transmission identified in South Miami Beach for more than 45 days, suggesting that the risk of Zika virus infection is no longer greater than in the rest of Miami-Dade County,” wrote the Centers for Disease Controls (CDC) in their latest Zika update.
A community in South Miami Beach was found to have active, ongoing Zika transmission from local mosquitoes over the summer. Zika can be transmitted sexually from people who have contracted the virus from sexual partners infected in endemic regions and cause serious birth defects in the children of afflicted pregnant women. But the presence of local mosquitoes that can spread Zika significantly increases the chance of infection.
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CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden credited fast containment efforts for the progress. “Florida’s rapid response and comprehensive mosquito control program has allowed them to interrupt Zika transmission, but we must stay vigilant and also take what we have learned and be prepared for next season,” he said in a statement.
And the downgraded warning doesn’t mean the virus isn’t still a major problem. In fact, Texas public health officials recently reported their own suspected instance of local Zika transmission, and the virus remains a real concern among more temperate Gulf states. Mosquito populations tend to die down during the colder winter months (which is why the Rio Olympics in Zika-afflicted Brazil during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter wasn’t much of a problem this year), but can re-emerge during bouts of warm weather.
To date, there have been 4,575 cases of Zika reported in the continental U.S., including 185 local cases transmitted via mosquitoes in Florida.