A Zika Patient In Florida May Have Acquired The Virus Locally

Health officials have ruled out sex and travel

A case of a woman infected with the Zika virus in Florida has had health officials baffled as to how she acquired the mosquito-borne virus. Today, the Associated Press reported via Twitter that Florida state officials have officially ruled out both sex and travel, which so far have been the two popular routes through which the disease has been transmitted in the United States.

So how did the woman acquire the virus? While nothing has been confirmed, it could be likely that the woman was infected by an Aedes Aegypti mosquito–the kind that transmits the virus–from within the United States.

This route of infection would happen through something like this: A person would become infected with the Zika virus while traveling to a Zika-stricken area, come home, then while the virus was still circulating in their bloodstream, get bitten by an Aedes Aegypti mosquito. Then that mosquito would have the virus in its system, and the next person it bites — say this Floridian woman — could acquire the Zika virus.

While this transmission method hasn’t occurred in the U.S. yet, some health officials have stated that its only a matter of time before this happens. However, it would be unlikely that this would turn into a larger epidemic.

Because people in the United States spend much of their time indoors, wear mosquito repellent, and aren’t exposed to standing water where mosquitos tend to breed), they don’t have the same risk factors as those in areas where the Zika virus has already spread rapidly, such as South and Central America.

According to the AP, Florida health officials have begun testing mosquitoes in the area to help determine whether this woman was infected by a local mosquito carrying Zika in its bloodstream.

Claire Maldarelli
Claire Maldarelli

is the Science Editor at Popular Science. She has a particular interest in brain science, the microbiome, and human physiology. In addition to Popular Science, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scientific American, and Scholastic’s Science World and Super Science magazines, among others. She has a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology from the University of California, Davis and a master’s in science journalism from New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. Contact the author here.