Zika Virus Continues to Spread Across Florida

     (CN) — Officials in Florida on Tuesday confirmed another case of Zika virus that was likely transmitted locally, this time on the opposite side of the state from the hard-hit Miami area.
     Gov. Rick Scott said the new locally acquired infection is in Pinellas County, which includes St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
     Four more locally transmitted Zika cases were also reported in Wynwood, an area in north Miami where the first continental U.S. Zika outbreak occurred.
     The new cases in Miami and Pinellas County bring Florida’s total of confirmed locally transmitted Zika cases to 42.
     “Today, we learned that the Florida Department of Health is investigating one new individual with non-travel related Zika in Pinellas County,” Scott said in a statement.
     The case in Pinellas County involves a woman without a significant travel history, indicating the virus was contracted locally. No additional details were released.
     Pinellas County is 265 miles northeast of Miami, so the new case may reflect the widespread presence of the Aedes aegypti mosquito — the primary vector of Zika — in Florida.
     Scott said the Florida Department of Health has begun door-to-door outreach in Pinellas County. Officials are working with Pinellas County Mosquito Control to provide “aggressive spraying and mosquito abatement efforts,” Scott said.
     Federal health officials on Friday warned that pregnant women should not travel to Miami Beach after Florida confirmed that the virus was active in the popular tourist destination — the second area in Miami to experience an outbreak.
     Tuesday’s new cases in Wynwood came despite Scott saying that state officials were able to “clear nearly the entire perimeter of the area” where local transmissions likely occurred. The impacted area is now only a half-square mile, according to Scott.
     Scott added that pregnant women seeking a free Zika test or a Zika prevention kit should contact the state’s department of health.
     “We remain fully committed to ensuring that every county has all of the resources they need to combat this virus and stand ready to assist residents and visitors in the impacted communities,” Scott said.
     Florida is the first U.S. state to experience local transmission of Zika. The virus has spread rapidly throughout Latin America and the Caribbean — including the U.S. territory Puerto Rico — since 2015.
     Zika’s connection to microcephaly, a congenital disorder that leads to abnormally small heads and potential brain damage in fetuses, adds danger for pregnant women or women wish to become pregnant.

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