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Florida Officials Probe Zika Case That May Not Be Related To Travel

A Broward County, Fla., employee takes water samples in a yard to test for mosquito larvae in June. It's part of the county's mosquito control program.
Lynne Sladky
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Health officials are investigating a Zika virus infection in Florida that could be the first case in which someone caught the virus by being bitten by a mosquito in the United States.

In a statement posted on its website Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health says the "possible non-travel related case of Zika" occurred in Miami-Dade County.

That means it's possible that the infected person did not catch the virus while traveling in another country where the virus is spreading. Rather, the infection might have been acquired from an infected mosquito.

But there's also the possibility that the Florida case may have occurred another way, such as sexual contact.

The statement does not mention sexual transmission, and officials did not provide any additional information in response to a request from Shots.

"We do not have additional information to share at this time," Brad Dalton, deputy press secretary in the department's office of communications, said in an email. He added that the investigation is ongoing.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an email that the agency "has been informed" of the case and is "closely coordinating" with Florida officials in the investigation.

Health authorities have been expecting that Zika could eventually spread by mosquitoes in parts of the United States. But they have repeatedly said they are confident they could prevent any large outbreaks from occurring.

More than 1,300 cases of Zika have been reported in the continental United States and Hawaii. None of them, so far, has been linked to a mosquito bite in this country. Most have been among travelers returning from countries where the virus is spreading. At least 14 are believed to have arisen after sexual contact with someone who was infected outside the continental U.S.

Zika can cause serious birth defects when pregnant women get infected, and can cause neurological complications in adults in rare cases.

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Rob Stein is a correspondent and senior editor on NPR's science desk.