At Least 4 Different Introductions of Zika Lead to Outbreak in Florida

HealthDay News — The 2016 Zika outbreak in Florida wasn’t due to a single introduction and spread of the virus, but rather at least 4 separate events, according to research published in Nature.

By analyzing the genetic material of Zika viruses found in people and mosquitoes in Florida, Nathan D. Grubaugh, PhD, of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and colleagues concluded that local transmission of the Zika virus likely began in spring 2016 before the first local case was confirmed.

The researchers also discovered that 3 of the Zika strains that affected Florida spread through the Caribbean islands first before reaching the state. The fourth spread through Central America. Based on their findings, the investigators believe that a similar Zika transmission pattern could happen again this year in Florida.

There are a number of reasons why Florida is a likely hotspot for Zika outbreaks in the United States, study co-leader Sharon Isern, PhD, of the Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, said in a university news release. These factors include the climate and an abundance of Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Plus, many people from the Miami area travel to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where Zika is already established.

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Grubaugh ND, Ladner JT, Kraemer MUG, et al. Genomic epidemiology reveals multiple introductions of Zika virus into the United States [published online May 24, 2017]. Nature. doi:10.1038/nature22400