By E.J. Mundell
THURSDAY, Sept. 1, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Three mosquitoes in Miami Beach have tested positive for the Zika virus, a first in the continental United States, Florida health officials said Thursday.
The mosquitoes were trapped in the same area where several cases of human infection have occurred, officials said.
Ninety-five additional mosquito samples were subsequently tested for Zika and those mosquitoes were found to be Zika-free, the officials said.
“This find [of the three mosquitoes] is disappointing, but not surprising,” Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam said in a news release. “Florida is among the best in the nation when it comes to mosquito surveillance and control, and this detection enables us to continue to effectively target our resources. Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami Beach, and state and federal partners will continue to work aggressively to prevent the spread of Zika,” he added.
Florida is the only state in the continental United States to report locally transmitted cases of the mosquito-borne virus, which can cause the distressing birth defect microcephaly. It leads to babies born with abnormally small heads and brains.
There have been 47 cases of locally transmitted Zika cases in Miami-Dade County since the first case was identified about a month ago.
Federal health officials have said for months that they expect to see cases of Zika infection in warm, humid Gulf Coast states such as Florida, Louisiana and Texas.
The vast majority of Zika infections have been in Latin America and the Caribbean, with Brazil the epicenter.
The Zika virus doesn’t pose a significant health threat to most people, except pregnant women and fetuses.
But an analysis released Wednesday reported that when a Zika outbreak occurs, there will likely be an accompanying increase in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, which causes temporary paralysis in its victims.
That finding strengthens a suspected link between infection with Zika virus and the syndrome, researchers said.
In areas where Zika outbreaks were reported, researchers documented a significant increase in Guillain-Barre cases. Guillain-Barre is known to be caused by infection with other viruses, the scientists noted in their report.
More than 164,000 confirmed and suspected cases of Zika and almost 1,500 cases of the Guillain-Barre syndrome were reported from April 2015 to March 2016 in Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Suriname and Venezuela. The jump in Guillain-Barre cases followed peaks in Zika infection, the analysis found.
The researchers, from the Pan American Health Organization in Washington, D.C., and the health ministries of the affected countries, concluded “that [Zika] infection and the Guillain-Barre syndrome are strongly associated. Additional studies are needed to show that [Zika] infection is a cause of the Guillain-Barre syndrome.”
The report was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that federal funds to combat the Zika virus are nearly exhausted and there will be no money to fight a new outbreak unless Congress approves more funding.
As of Friday, the CDC had spent $ 194 million of the $ 222 million it was given to fight the virus, said agency director Dr. Thomas Frieden, The New York Times reported.
Congress broke for its summer recess without approving additional funding. With Zika circulating in Florida, Frieden said the need for new funding was urgent.
The CDC has sent about $ 35 million to Florida and much of that has been spent, Frieden said. But, he added, if another cluster of Zika cases occurs in Florida, or if there is an outbreak in a second state, the agency would not be able to send emergency funds, according to The Times.
“The cupboard is bare, there’s no way to provide that,” he said at a briefing with reporters in Washington, D.C.
Senate Republicans have scheduled a vote on $ 1.1 billion in Zika funding for next Tuesday, when Congress comes back into session, according to a spokesman for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky.
But Democrats oppose that package because it would exclude Planned Parenthood from the list of providers that would get new funding for contraception to combat the spread of Zika, which also can be transmitted sexually.
Public health experts say the funding issue is critical because the Gulf Coast, where the Aedes mosquito that transmits Zika mostly lives, is only halfway through peak mosquito season. There’s a high risk that Zika could start circulating in New Orleans or Houston, the newspaper reported.
The danger of mosquito-borne Zika infection for pregnant American women became more imminent last month, with two neighborhoods in the Miami area reporting cases of locally acquired infection. The CDC is now advising that pregnant women avoid traveling to these areas of Miami to reduce their risk of contracting Zika.
The CDC also is advising pregnant women not to travel to an area where active Zika transmission is ongoing, and to use insect repellent and wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts if they are in those areas. Partners of pregnant women are advised to use a condom to guard against sexual transmission during pregnancy.
SOURCES: Sept. 1, 2016, news release, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; Aug. 31, 2016, New England Journal of Medicine; Aug. 30, 2016, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; The New York Times
News stories are provided by HealthDay and do not reflect the views of MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or federal policy.