The first known cases of Zika virus transmission within the United States have been confirmed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today.
As of July 27, the CDC says there are 1,658 reported cases of the mosquito-borne virus in the country, almost all linked to travel to countries with transmission within their borders. Fifteen of those cases were sexually transmitted by a partner who had been abroad. There are 4,750 known cases in U.S. territories.
As of July 21, there were 433 cases of the virus that can cause birth defects involving pregnant women in the U.S. and an additional 422 cases in U.S. territories.
Florida’s Department of Health has now reported four cases — three men and one woman — of Zika transmission by mosquitoes within Miami-Dade and Broward counties. None of the people involved are hospitalized.
The current infection area is limited to about a square mile just north of downtown Miami.
Gov. Rick Scott confirmed that “active transmissions of this virus could be occurring in one small area in Miami.”
“While no mosquitoes have tested positive for the Zika virus, DOH is aggressively testing people in this area to ensure there are no other cases,” Scott said. “…Now that Florida has become the first state to have a local transmission, likely through a mosquito, we will continue to put every resource available to fighting the spread of Zika in our state.”
The governor added that “if it becomes clear more resources are needed, we will not hesitate to allocate them.” He called on state residents to “take proper precautions by eliminating any standing water and wearing insect repellent.”
CDC Director Tom Frieden confirmed “all the evidence we have seen indicates that this is mosquito-borne transmission that occurred several weeks ago in several blocks in Miami.”
“We continue to recommend that everyone in areas where Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are present—and especially pregnant women—take steps to avoid mosquito bites,” Frieden said. “We will continue to support Florida’s efforts to investigate and respond to Zika and will reassess the situation and our recommendations on a daily basis.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called the news “disturbing” but not surprising.
“I’ve been warning Congress for months that we would eventually have locally transmitted cases of Zika virus in the United States, and sadly that has now become a reality,” Rubio said. “We need to prepare ourselves for more locally transmitted cases to emerge in the weeks ahead. All of us must redouble our efforts to protect our families from mosquitoes and, wherever possible, to prevent water from pooling where mosquitos might breed.”
“We are entering a critical phase of this crisis. Local mosquito transmissions and increased travel to the U.S. from Zika-affected regions are a dangerous combination that could lead to an explosive increase in infections. We must act quickly to prevent the problem from reaching a tipping point in the mainland U.S. as it already has in Puerto Rico.”
Rubio added that “both parties in Congress need to get it together and approve funding to combat the Zika virus.”
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) laid the blame at Republicans’ feet.
“Instead of dealing with this months ago as Democrats demanded, Republican leaders did nothing and made the shameful decision that a seven-week vacation was more important than bipartisan action to stop the Zika virus,” Reid said in a statement. “The House and Senate must return to Washington immediately to provide the funding public health officials need to protect the American people. This news should be a wake-up call to Republicans to start taking this threat seriously.”