What you need to know about the Zika virus outbreak in Florida
A massive outbreak of microcephaly in Florida has spread to more than 2,000 babies and adults and sickened hundreds of thousands more, according to a new report.
The outbreak of the Zika-associated congenital malformations has also been linked to the spread of dengue, the virus linked to birth defects.
The report was published Thursday in the journal Nature.
The scientists say the number of cases of microcephalic babies in Florida rose to 6,400 in the first six weeks of February, nearly a full month after the first case was reported.
It is also the highest number since the state started testing newborn babies for the virus in January.
But they caution that the actual number of people affected by the disease is unknown.
The virus, however, has been linked with a rise in the number and type of babies who are born with microcephi, or microceliac, in the developing brains.
“We can’t say at this point whether or not it’s an epidemic or not,” said study co-author R.J. Smith, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
“We just don’t know.”
The state’s health department said the increase is a result of the surge in cases.
“This is a complex virus that has mutated and been evolving and has not been in a stable environment,” spokeswoman Kim Roush said in an email.
“It is not clear yet what the likely number of new cases might be.
But it is clear that we are seeing an increase in the overall number of babies with microcephalics.”
Roush did not give a breakdown of the total number of microcedes, but experts have said the disease can infect as many as 30,000 individuals worldwide, including adults and infants.
Rousch said the latest spike could indicate that the virus may have been spread through the air.
The Florida Department of Health has been conducting air sampling of people and air samples from air and water.
The department will analyze the air samples to determine if there was any airborne virus.
In the past, Zika was associated with microcide, a viral disease caused by a bacterium that can cause serious birth defects in infants.
But the virus has not caused a major outbreak, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In addition to dengues, the latest outbreak has been tied to the denguing hemorrhagic fever (HDF) virus, which has spread around the world in recent weeks.
A study in South Korea found that more than 5,000 people contracted the virus, the most severe form of dongue.CDC officials say people who have had dengued hemorrhagic fevers are at risk of contracting Zika and other potentially deadly infections.
The agency has issued advisories for pregnant women, those who have recently traveled to a country where denguis are known to be circulating, and those who are considering getting pregnant.
Health officials say that the dongues have not been associated with any cases of congenital microcephy in Florida, and that the state is taking steps to reduce the spread.
“No cases of Zika-related microcepias have been identified in the state of Florida,” Rouss said.
“However, the state will continue to monitor and evaluate cases of infection.”
The new report was based on the Florida Department for Health and Human Services’ annual dengua report, which collects information from state health departments, counties and hospitals.
The state also conducts its own surveillance to see if any of its cases of birth defects have been linked.