Florida has first U.S. cases of Zika transmitted by mosquitoes

Florida has first U.S. cases of Zika transmitted by mosquitoes

(WVUE) - Florida's governor says four people there have the Zika virus, likely as a result of a mosquito bite. These are the first known cases of the virus being transmitted by mosquitoes in the United States.

During a press conference Friday morning, Gov. Rick Scott adressed the situation.

"Florida has become the first state in the nation to have local transmission of the Zika virus," he said.

The words sparked fear in some, questions in others.

"The Florida Department of Health believes that action transmissions of this virus could be occurring in one small area, in one small area, Miami Dade County," Scott said.

Local experts said not to expect mosquitoes carrying Zika in Florida to make their way to Louisiana because the insects simply can't travel that far. As for how the mosquitoes got Zika, entomologist Sarah Michaels points to humans who have traveled to countries where Zika is already prevalent.

"The infecting of local mosquitoes would have to happen by a returning infected traveler, and that's when we would see local transmission," Michael explained.

Unlike West Nile virus where mosquitoes contract the virus from birds, people are the carriers for Zika.

"Anybody who's traveled to an area where Zika is present and comes back and is sick right before they get back, or right after they get back, should possibly get tested and try to protect themselves from mosquitoes, because they're the ones that can set off transmission locally," said Tulane Associate Professor of Tropical Medicine Dawn Wesson.

In the New Orleans area, the city's Mosquito Control Board regularly sprays and checks areas with standing water for mosquitoes.

"We definitely are at risk," said Michaels, who works for the board. "We have enough mosquitoes of the right species that could transmit the viruses."

Local officials are attempting to ward off a situation like the one unfolding in Florida for as long as possible.

Florida officials there are now going door-to-door in the area where the infected residents live, asking neighbors for urine samples and other information in an effort to determine how many people are infected.

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