The first cases of locally transmitted Zika virus were reported this week in Florida. On July 29th, 4 people infected with Zika virus in Miami reportedly were bitten by mosquitoes within the city. On August 1st, that number grew from 4 to 14 infected. Until now, all reported cases of Zika in the United States have been linked to those who recently travelled to countries with known Zika transmissions.
Due to the recent developments, the Centers for Disease Control are warning pregnant women and their partners to avoid traveling to Miami and surrounding areas. Zika virus is extremely dangerous to unborn babies, potentially causing a condition known as Microcephaly, a birth defect characterized by abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brain function. Pregnant women and/or their partners that have recently travelled to the area (on or after June 15th) should be tested immediately for Zika virus and those living in and around Miami should exercise strict mosquito bite prevention and avoid unprotected sex.
As for the rest of the country, the risk of contracting Zika from mosquitoes isn’t an immediate threat since mosquitoes carrying Zika do not travel far (a mile or less in their lifetime). BUT, because symptoms of Zika often go unnoticed, those that have recently traveled to the area and may have Zika are likely to pass the virus on to sexual partners, OR could spread the virus to another mosquito if bitten. In turn, that mosquito could then transmit Zika to other people.
Because of its unpredictability, practicing mosquito bite prevention in any warm, humid climate (within the US and when traveling abroad) is key – especially for pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant. Use an insect repellent with DEET when outdoors, keep arms and legs covered with light-colored, loose clothing, stay away from areas with stagnant, standing water, and consider a home mosquito control program by an exterminating company.