5 Things To Know Now That Zika Is in the United States

Hallie Whitman; Stephanie Cajigal


August 05, 2016

They said it would happen and it has. The Florida Department of Health announced on July 29 that four people in Miami who tested positive for Zika likely acquired the virus through mosquito bites—the first suspected cases of local transmission to occur in the continental United States.

The count has since risen to 21 people in the state, but the local cases weren't a surprise to US health officials who have warned for months that Zika would eventually make its way from Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico to the mainland United States. These facts should be on your radar now that local Zika transmission has begun:

  1. The number of patients in the United States who are infected with Zika is growing.

    The 21 locally transmitted Zika cases documented in Florida add to the increasing number of cases reported in the United States this year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 1825 total cases of Zika in the United States as of August 10, 2016, of which 16 were sexually transmitted. While the first infections reported in the United States were contracted after travel to affected regions, the recent cases in Miami were transmitted locally via mosquito bites.

    Zika cases within the US military and their families are also expanding rapidly; as of August 3, at least 41 military members, including one pregnant woman, have been infected while overseas.

  2. The domestic travel ban only includes a 1-mile area within Miami.

    The confirmation of Zika in Florida led the CDC to issue a domestic travel warning for pregnant women, urging avoidance of all nonessential travel to the 1-mile area of active transmission north of downtown Miami. CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, explained that there is no proof of further Zika outbreak outside of the small Miami neighborhood. Also, the Aedes aegypti mosquito responsible for spreading the virus cannot fly more than 150 meters in its lifetime; the advisory area extends far beyond that. Florida Governor Rick Scott stressed that the rest of the state "remains safe and open for tourism."

  3. Testing is available for any patient who requests it.

    The CDC recommends the use of real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) testing for diagnosis, which can detect Zika RNA in blood and urine samples for up to 2 weeks after symptom onset. Although a positive rRT-PCR result indicates infection, a negative result does not rule out Zika, so other antibody tests, such as immunoglobulin M, can be used for confirmation.

    The CDC recommends that all pregnant women be tested for infection at each prenatal care visit if they live in an active transmission area or if their sexual partner has traveled to one. Here is guidance for collecting and submitting the samples.

    It can take weeks or longer to get testing results back, but a newly approved Quest Diagnostics version of the Zika test is expected to broaden testing capacity and increase speed of results.

  4. Zika prevention kits are available for patients.

    Many state and local health departments are offering Zika prevention kits for patients. The CDC also recommends that concerned patients build Zika kits, which include a bed net, standing water treatment tabs, insect repellent, permethrin spray, and condoms.

  5. Patients are likely to ask questions—here's how to answer.

    As fear of Zika in the United States grows, patients will want more information. Medscape's parent company, WebMD, offers this guide for patients. Clinicians can also continue to stay up-to-date on all Zika-related news and information with our Zika Virus Resource Center.

Still Have Questions?

If you have any questions about Zika that haven't been answered here, please ask them in the comments section. We will try to answer as many of your questions as possible in a follow-up article to be published soon.

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