10 more locally spread Zika cases identified in Florida, travel notice issued

Washington, Aug 2 (IANS) The US state of Florida has identified 10 additional cases likely caused by local mosquito bites, bringing the total number of people with locally transmitted Zika to 14, the state’s Governor Rick Scott said on Monday.

In a statement, Scott said the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a notice to women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant to avoid unnecessary travel to the impacted area that is north of Miami, Xinhua news agency reported.

Health officials have been testing individuals in three locations in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, where four locally spread Zika cases were confirmed on July 19, and that two locations have been ruled out for possible local Zika transmissions, Scott said.

As a result, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) believes that active Zika transmissions were still only occurring in the same square-mile area of Miami that was announced on Friday, he said.

Among the 10 new cases announced on Monday, six are asymptomatic and were identified from the door-to-door community survey that DOH is conducting.

“Following today’s (Monday’s) announcement, I have requested that the CDC activate their Emergency Response Team to assist DOH in their investigation, research and sample collection efforts,” Scott said.

“Their team will consist of public health experts whose role is to augment our response efforts to confirmed local transmissions of the Zika virus,” he added.

Florida would try to continue to keep residents and visitors safe utilising constant surveillance and aggressive strategies, such as increased mosquito spraying, that have allowed the state to fight similar viruses.

“While I encourage all residents and visitors to continue to use precaution by draining standing water and wearing bug spray, Florida remains safe and open for business,” he said.

“This year, we have already welcomed a record 30 million tourists and we look forward to welcoming more visitors to Florida this summer.”

So far, the DOH has conducted testing for the Zika virus for more than 2,300 people statewide and more than 200 individuals in Miami-Dade and Broward counties who live or work near the four individuals that have already been confirmed with likely mosquito-borne transmissions, Xinhua news agency reported.

Of the 14 individuals identified, two are women and 12 are men.

More than 1,600 Zika cases have been reported in the US, but previously all cases have been linked to travel to affected areas or sexual contact with an infected person.

Most people infected with Zika won’t have symptoms, but for those who do, the illness is usually mild. However, Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe foetal birth defects.

–IANS

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