For the better part of a year, scientists and public officials have warned about a Zika outbreak in the United States. The virus, which causes grave birth defects and can seriously sicken children and adults, was declared a global-health emergency in February.
And though researchers have scrambled to respond, federal officials have done little. Earlier this month, Congress left for a seven-week recess without resolving the question of whether to fund efforts to fight the disease.
Now, officials in Florida have confirmed the news scientists have long anticipated: Mosquitoes in the United States appear to be transmitting Zika to humans. Four individuals in Miami-area counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, contracted the virus from local mosquitoes.
“Florida has become the first state in our country to have a local transmission of the Zika virus,” said Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, according to local news reports in Orlando.
This development is significant: It represents the first cases of Zika in the country that have come from mosquitoes in the United States. Most other cases of Zika in the U.S. have been recorded in individuals who contracted the illness from traveling to areas where an epidemic is under way, or through sexual transmission. (Though in one bizarre case, officials in Utah are investigating how a person who contracted Zika may have been sickened by caring for a man who died from the virus.)