Florida Zika Case Could Be First Local Transmission In U.S.

(Reuters) – Florida health officials said on Tuesday they are investigating a case of Zika virus infection that does not appear to have stemmed from travel to another region with an outbreak.

The statement from the Florida Department of Health did not specify whether the Zika case was believed to have been transmitted via mosquito bite, sexual contact or other means.

The department said the case was reported in Miami-Dade County and that it is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on an epidemiological study.

The department also reiterated guidance to Florida residents on protecting themselves from mosquitoes that may carry the virus.

“Zika prevention kits and repellant will be available for pickup … and distributed in the area under investigation,” the health department said in a statement. “Mosquito control has already conducted reduction and prevention activities in the area of investigation.”

Zika, which can cause a rare birth defect and other neurological conditions, has spread rapidly through the Americas. A small number of cases of Zika transmitted between sexual partners have also been documented.

There has yet to be a case of local transmission by mosquitoes in the continental United States, though more than 1,300 people in the country have reported infections after traveling to a Zika outbreak area.

U.S. officials have predicted local outbreaks to begin as the weather warms, particularly in southern states such as Florida and Texas.

(Reporting by Michele Gershberg in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Bernard Orr)

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