Sad news on the Zika virus from Houston, Texas. An infant died shortly after birth from complications due to Zika related microcephaly. The mother had traveled to El Salvador and was likely infected while traveling. There is no indication that Zika is currently transmitted in Texas. Altogether, 20 pregnant women in the mainland US have been adversely affected by Zika. Seven have miscarried or terminated a fetus with severe brain damage. Thirteen have given birth to children with Zika related birth defects. All of those infections were travel related.
The July 2016 Zika outbreak in Florida is a different story. Reports of Zika transmission in Miami were triggered by testing a pregnant woman who had not traveled herself but came in contact with travelers. 21 Miami residents so far have been documented as infected locally. Miami is a particular risk because it has both a mosquito population that can transmit the virus and a large number of travelers to areas where Zika is transmitted.
The hotspot area for Zika transmission is Puerto Rico. At the current rate of infection, as much as 25% of the Puerto Rico population could be infected by December. This number includes as many as 10,000 pregnant women. Zika is present in the Puerto Rico blood supply with about 2% of all blood containing virus.
Puerto Ricans are US citizens and there is substantial travel between the island and the mainland. Puerto Rico is a US Territory and the US government is ultimately responsible for controlling the outbreak. Failure to control the spread in Puerto Rico increases the risk of spread to the continental US. Money for Zika, requested by the Obama administration last February was in part to be spent on mosquito and Zika control in Puerto Rico. Better control in Puerto Rico would reduce the threat to the US mainland. However, Congress has still not appropriated the funds needed to fully fight Zika. The result is Zika transmission in the US mainland and local governments like Miami Dade County picking up the cost of control. They are currently conducting intensive spraying in the neighborhood where Zika has been transmitted in hopes of eliminating the population of infested mosquitoes. We hope they have adequate resources and can be successful in their efforts.