This morning, Governor Rick Scott of Florida held a press conference to discuss the possibility of local Zika virus spread in a small area of the state – the ZIP code 33127.

072916-local-zika-map

The Zika-affected area

Although only four people have been affected, the news has sent shock waves through America. The state has also invoked a number of mandates to respond to the cases They include mandatory urine testing and the refusal of blood donors for those in the affected area.

For researchers including myself, this event has been expected for some time. To be honest, I’ve wondered why it has taken this long for the virus to make it to America. Based on what was seen in South America, Zika should have spread like wildfire.

But what is truly odd is the lack of any detection of Zika-positive mosquitoes. This means the virus may be in the area, yet has not reached a level capable of sustained transmission. This is the perfect opportunity for the state to do everything it can to prevent a rise in cases. But to ensure this happens, they have to first find out how these four people were infected.

No doubt, hypotheses about the mode of infection are going to be offered. I can already think of three based on the small amount of information shared.

  1. Bystander effect – a Zika-infected person was bitten and then the mosquito bit another uninfected person within the insect’s lifespan.
  2. Pocket spread – the Zika virus is in a small, as-of-yet undiscovered part of the ZIP code and only affecting people there.
  3. Inaccurate medical history – this is of course the least likely option but always needs to be considered as the individuals may not wish to share their private activities

Whatever the case may be – I’m figuring Option #1 is the most likely explanation – the reality is America now has to face an issue they have been trying to keep on the back burner. Granted, this is only a report of four cases. But that can quickly rise if the presence of the virus in the mosquito population rises.

You can read more about the cases here:
http://www.floridahealth.gov/newsroom/2016/07/072916-local-zika.html

 

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