An outbreak of the Zika virus has been identified in a section of Miami Beach, Florida after five people were determined to have been infected by mosquitoes. Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) stated on Friday that the new patients were infected by native mosquitoes within a 1.5 square-mile area in the popular tourist district. Florida is the first state in which native mosquitoes have transmitted the virus to humans. The outbreak in Miami Beach brings the total number of known Zika cases in Florida to 35, although Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas Frieden stated that there are “undoubtedly more infections that we’re not aware of” and that the virus may be spreading throughout Miami-Dade County.
The CDC has advised pregnant women and their sexual partners to avoid the identified area. Those who have traveled there since July 14th should be tested for the virus, which has been known to cause microcephaly and developmental disorders in infants. More than 500 women have been infected in the United States, though most have received the virus through sexual contact, not mosquito bites. To fight back against the newly discovered, Zika carrying mosquitoes, the CDC is employing workers to spray pesticides from backpacks. Pesticides would ideally be delivered by air, but in urban Miami stacked with high rises, this is not a viable option.
Related: FDA approves genetically modified mosquitos to fight Zika
Zika’s harmful effects may not be limited to pregnant women and infants. A major new study has suggested that Zika attacks immature cells, which are essential for learning and memory function, in the brains of adult mice. The gradual deterioration of these cells could cause the brain to shrink and lead to severe impairment of cognitive function, similar in effect to Alzheimer’s. Researchers caution that further study is needed before Zika’s full impact is understood. Comprehensive research, treatment and prevention measures require reliable federal funding. To the shock of no one, the United States Congress has failed to pass legislation that would deliver the necessary resources to confront this public health crisis.
Via The Independent
Images via Jimmy Baikovicius and John Tann