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Florida Investigating Whether Zika Case Came From Local Mosquito

If confirmed, it could be the beginning of a US-based outbreak.

Last updated on July 20, 2016, at 7:00 p.m. ET

Posted on July 20, 2016, at 7:53 a.m. ET

Felipe Dana / AP

On Tuesday evening, Florida health officials announced that they are investigating what could be the first case of Zika in the continental US that did not come from people traveling to other regions affected by the virus.

The officials did not say whether the new case, in Miami-Dade County, came from a mosquito bite or sexual transmission. (Miami-Dade has reported 88 other Zika cases that have come from travelers.) If it's confirmed to have come from a local mosquito, it could be the beginning of a US-based outbreak.

In February, after Zika had caused a mysterious cluster of brain defects in babies in Brazil, the WHO announced a global public health emergency. Now, with the Rio Olympics looming, many athletes have decided not to attend, despite the fact that the winter season in Brazil means that mosquitos will be curbed and the virus unlikely to spread widely there.

Even if the Florida case means that local mosquitoes are indeed spreading Zika, US health officials have predicted that the disease isn't likely to be as problematic in the US as it has been in other countries because of screened windows and air conditioning.

On Wednesday, the White House said President Obama called Florida Gov. Rick Scott to discuss the Zika case.

This case would be the first documented Zika infection caused by a mosquito in the Continental United States. The President recognized Florida's strong record of responding aggressively to local outbreaks of mosquito-borne viruses like Zika, and offered Federal support and technical assistance for Florida's ongoing case investigation and mosquito control efforts. He acknowledged Florida's close coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC for Zika preparedness. The President also noted during the call that in addition to the $2 million that CDC has provided to Florida for Zika preparedness, CDC is anticipating it will award Florida $5.6 million in Zika funding through a CDC grant to be awarded this week.

The Obama Administration asked for $1.9 billion in Zika funding this spring, and a House and Senate bill that eventually approved $1.1 billion was blocked in the Senate in June because it tied the money to cutting unrelated EPA regulations and taking money away from Planned Parenthood. Congress recessed for seven weeks this month without approving any emergency funding for Zika.

The new Florida case might put pressure on Congress to approve "emergency funding" to battle the virus, said one Florida lawmaker.

“This is a disturbing yet predictable development that is precisely why Congress needed to approve emergency funding," Rep. Vern Buchanan told BuzzFeed News by email. "Washington’s failure to approve emergency funding was a national disgrace that needs to be corrected as soon as Congress returns from its summer recess.”


UPDATE

This story has been updated with comments from Rep. Buchanan and the President.

BuzzFeed News reporter Michelle Broder Van Dyke contributed to this report.

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