Florida Zika outbreak could reach Puerto Rico outbreak's levels, virologist says

As of Aug. 9, there have been 21 cases of locally acquired Zika identified in Florida. One Floridian virologist has expressed concern that the rate of Zika transmission in the state could become comparable to that of Puerto Rico's, where the CDC has reported nearly 5,500 locally acquired cases.

Regarding a potential Zika epidemic on the scale of Puerto Rico, Timothy Tellinghuisen, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Immunology and Microbial Science at Scripps Florida in Jupiter, told the Palm Beach Post, "It could very much happen here."

On Wednesday at a meeting with county officials in West Palm Beach, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida also expressed serious concern about mosquito-borne Zika in the state. According to the Palm Beach Post, Mr. Nelson said federal health officials have articulated the possibility that for every confirmed case of Zika, there are likely four or five others that have not been reported. This possibility is likely associated with the fact that 80 percent of those infected with Zika never display symptoms.

"So you're talking about in excess of 2,000 cases in Florida," said Sen. Nelson. "Look at all the disease experts and they tell you this thing could get out of control. And we're starting to see it."

Regarding Puerto Rico, Tom Frieden, MD, the director of the CDC, previously expressed concern that hundreds of infants could be born with deformities as a result of the high rate of Zika transmission on the island.

As of Aug. 3, there have been 1,825 total reported cases of Zika infection in the U.S. — 497 of those cases occurred in pregnant women. To date, the overwhelming majority of these cases have been associated with travel. Florida is currently the only state in the continental U.S. experiencing confirmed local transmission of the Zika virus.

More articles on the Zika virus: 
Joint defects in infants linked to Zika infection  
Local Zika cases in Miami now at 21 — Hillary Clinton calls for Congress to act 
Americans approve of late-term abortions when Zika has harmed the fetus 

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