CNN is reporting that officials in Florida have now confirmed a total of 33 Zika cases not contracted by traveling abroad to affected areas, doubling the number of local cases from the initial fifteen that led to a CDC warning against traveling to Miami.
The Florida Department of Health Investigators confirmed 33 cases of locally-transmitted Zika virus in Miami on Wednesday, most in the northern neighborhood of Wynwood. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had issued a travel advisory for Wynwood specifically earlier this month, warning pregnant women and women who could become pregnant to stay out of the area. Miami officials approved the use of an aerial pesticide known as naled to help control the local mosquito population.
Zika is spread through the aedes aegypti species of mosquito. It is an asymptomatic infection in 80 percent of those affected, with most others suffering mild symptoms like body aches and rashes. It is potentially deadly to infants and unborn children, however. Researchers have confirmed that the Zika virus attacks an unborn child’s neurological development, and has caused thousands of cases of microcephaly in Latin America, where the outbreak first began. Microcephaly is a condition in which a child’s skull is too small for its brain, causing severe neurological damage.
A new study released this week also found a correlation between Zika infection and arthrogryposis, a deformity which attacks an infant’s joints and hinders mobility. Researchers found that faulty nerve functions are likely to blame for this mobility condition. The new discovery may also shed light on cases of Zika-related Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a joint condition that causes chronic pain, paralysis, and death in some cases.
Florida officials said they are investigating the origin of seven of the new cases, which appear to be related neither to Wynwood nor to foreign travel. The new cases may indicate that a new hotbed for Zika contraction has surfaced in Miami.
“If we see new Zika clusters that are linked to this cluster outside of the one-mile radius [of Wynwood] or people who became ill with links to this specific one-mile radius area after mid-August, then this would be a cause for additional investigation and action,” CDC spokeswoman Erin Sykes told CNN last week. “For now, we expect to find infections that occurred before these mosquito control measures were implemented.”
The 33 cases do not include two locally-transmitted cases of Zika diagnosed outside of Florida. At least one man has tested positive for Zika in Texas after visiting Miami, as well as a woman in Taiwan, who became the first foreigner to contract Zika in the continental United States.
While Wynwood remains on alert for new Zika cases, some businesses that shut down shortly after the CDC announced an emergency warning have started to reopen. The Wynwood Yard, a food and music venue, has reopened after one of its employees tested positive for Zika. “We want to continue showcasing what a marvelous part of town Wynwood is,” founder Della Grace said in a statement, according to the Miami Herald.