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Researchers: Zika Arrived in Florida Earlier—and More Often—than Previously Thought

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New research shows the Zika virus was likely in the state earlier than health officials had previously thought—and had arrived in the state on multiple occasions.

Dr. Sharon Isern and Dr. Scott Michael study dengue fever and other mosquito-borne illnesses at Florida Gulf Coast University. Working with an international team of researchers, they published a study in the journal Nature this month which found the virus was likely established in Florida by the early spring of 2016.

"We used the virus’ own genetics to trace how the virus spread in the Americas," Scott said. "What we were able to find, number one is, the virus was probably present well before it was clinically diagnosed." 

The first locally-acquired case of the virus was reported in July of last year. 

Speaking on  WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live, Dr. Isern said studying Zika-infected mosquitoes from Miami Beach also revealed how the virus made the jump to the U.S." 

"Florida was getting bombarded by Zika from different places,"Isernsaid. "And at least four of those times it took off, meaning local transmissions started. And what our studies showed was, that of the 3 of the 4 introductions into Florida, those were from the Caribbean, and the fourth one was from Central America, so we were getting introductions from these different places."

Despite mapping the different ways Zika made it to Florida, researchers still don’t know if the virus came to the US in the body of a mosquito, or a human.

Florida saw more than 1,000 Zika cases last year, 285 of which were locally transmitted. As of May 25, the state has more than 50 cases of the virus, but only four were locally acquired.

Copyright 2020 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.
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