Mosquitoes caught in traps in Florida were positively identified as carrying the Zika virus, the first time that the insects have been found to contain the virus in the continental United States.
The Zika-laden mosquitoes were identified as part of a testing program–part of Florida’s extensive efforts to reduce the spread of the disease.
Zika can be transmitted via mosquito bites, or through sexual contact with an infected individual. Symptoms of Zika are usually mild and might include a fever or pain in joints, but it can cause birth defects in fetuses if the mother is infected during pregnancy.
The outbreak of the Zika virus in Florida started back in July, and prompted the state to start an intense mosquito removal program, using insecticide and inspections of property to root out any places that mosquitoes might breed.
Finding mosquitoes containing Zika is especially alarming in light of recent studies that found that mosquitoes infected with Zika can pass the infection on to their offspring, potentially drawing out the problem further.
The FDA is also encouraging blood banks to screen all blood donations in the United States for Zika. Zika hasn’t been proven to spread through blood transfusions, but experts worry that it is a potential pathway for the disease.