Zika Virus is becoming old news that drops from public consciousness. However, Zika is still in the US and is still being locally transmitted in Florida despite spraying and efforts at eradication. Florida has the second highest number of reported Zika cases among the states at 836 as of January 17, 2017. Only New York has more cases: 1001. The majority of infections occur in travelers to other countries where Zika is epidemic. However, local transmission of Zika has occurred in 2 states, Florida (211 cases) and Texas (6 cases), with new locally transmitted cases reported for Florida in December 2016. Local transmission so far only occurs where Aedes aegypti is present. New York has more reported cases than Florida but no local transmission has been reported to date.
The numbers of Zika related birth defects continues to rise. In US states, 37 babies (another 5 have died) have birth defects linked to the Zika virus, including brain damage and deformities deafness, microcephaly, eye problems and nerve and joint conditions. The total is expected to rise. In retrospective studies, 6 Hawaiian babies with microcephaly born after 2009 have mothers that were exposed to Zika, possibly when traveling to Pacific Islands. Zika may have been causing birth defects in the US for over half a decade before the 2016 outbreak focused world attention on the problem. Zika does not always cause birth defects. 940 pregnant women infected with Zika have given birth to babies with no noted birth defects so far. This is good news. We don’t know with certainty why birth defects occur in some cases but not others.
In the US, the Territory of Puerto Rico has by far the most cases with over 34,000 and counting. 51 cases of the neurological disorder, Guillain-Barré syndrome, have been reported in US territories. The emerging pattern in the US suggests that most Zika transmission will be confined to southern states with Aedes aegypti, travelers to infected areas and their partners. When visiting infected areas, a good repellent is a reasonable precaution.