Is the Zika virus spreading within the United States? Here's what you need to know.
The Zika virus is without a doubt a global health crisis—and now it seems as though it may have established a foothold in the United States. Florida health officials have confirmed that five more locally transmitted cases of the mosquito-borne virus were reported in Florida, according to HealthDay. That's in addition to the five locally transitted cases previously reported in the Miami Beach area—and brings the state's total number of confirmed cases to 42.
For most people, Zika's symptoms are relatively minor and include rash, fever and joint pain. But as we all now know, the virus has some truly scary effects on pregnant women and their fetuses: Zika has been linked to microcephaly, a disorder that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development. Recent research has suggested that the virus can cause brain damage beyond microcephaly as well.
The CDC has released (and continually updated) a list of far-flung destinations pregnant women should avoid in light of all this. But now moms-to-be are bebing urged to stay away from some place closer to home, as well: Miami Beach.
Four of the five cases recently reported in Florida originated in the Wynnwood arts district, which is located in Miami and was the first place in Florida to see local transmission. The fifth case was seen in the Tampa Bay area.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, one case affected a Pinellas County resident who had not travelled internationally, which raises questions about stateside transmission of the virus. With that being said, officials hope this is an isolated case and promise to take aggressive action if more cases hit Pinellas County, which is located about 300 miles from Miami.
Ask the Expert: Zika Virus and Pregnancy
At this point, Floridia officials are trying to control the mosquitos in Wynnwood, which should help stop the Zika virus from spreading further. For now, we suggest you take comfort in the fact that the majority of U.S. residents who have contracted Zika did so while traveling abroad. It goes without saying that you should follow the CDC's advice and avoid traveling to Miami Beach and all other Zika-affected areas if possible—but it's also imperative that you protect yourself against mosquitos and also if you're having sex with someone who has travelled to any of the infected areas. Of course, speak with your doctor if you experience any symptoms of the virus. A Zika vaccination is still a long way off—so pregnant women really can't be too careful.