Travel to “the sun and fun capital of the world”—Miami Beach--should be avoided by pregnant women, say federal officials, after Florida Governor Rick Scott confirmed five cases of locally transmitted Zika virus there.
Until this announcement, local transmission of mosquito-borne Zika--which can cause devastating birth defects in babies--has been restricted to a neighborhood in north Miami known as Wynwood. Officials continue to struggle with controlling mosquitos in the Wynwood area of Miami, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said, and have advised women pregnant women not to travel there.
Among the five new cases recently reported were three men and two women, two of whom are local residents and three who were tourists visiting from New York, Texas and Taiwan.
"Although the state of Florida, with CDC's assistance, has mounted and continues to mount an aggressive response, the mosquitos are persistent, and we won't know for at least another couple of weeks if these aggressive control measures have worked," Frieden said Friday. Many tourists and locals persist in traveling to South Beach, particularly, despite the warnings.
The CDC advises pregnant women not to travel to an area where active Zika transmission is ongoing, and to use insect repellent and wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts if they are in those areas. Partners of pregnant women are advised to use a condom to guard against sexual transmission during pregnancy.
The Zika virus is typically transmitted via mosquitoes and can cause a transient illness. It’s most dangerous to pregnant women, due to the virus' link to microcephaly, a devastating birth defect when babies are born with smaller heads and underdeveloped brains.
Health officials in the United States have already been preparing for the possibility of Zika transmission via blood transfusion. In March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an experimental test to check blood donations for the Zika virus.
The FDA also recommends that anyone who has traveled recently to an area where the Zika virus is active refrain from donating blood.
Health experts do stress that the vast majority of the more than 2,260 Zika infections so far reported in the continental United States have been linked to travel abroad -- to countries with Zika outbreaks in Latin America or the Caribbean. Most of the thousands of Zika infections recorded globally have so far occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean. Brazil, especially, has reported the vast majority of cases of Zika-linked microcephaly.
U.S. officials said they don't expect to see a Zika epidemic in the United States similar to those in Latin America. The reason: better insect control as well as window screens and air conditioning that should help curtail any outbreaks.
In addition to mosquitoes, the Zika virus can be transmitted through sex. These infections in the United States are thought to have occurred because the patients' partners had traveled to countries where Zika is circulating, the CDC said.
Excerpted from the CDC Press Release
Friday, August 19, 2016