The mosquito-borne Zika virus is spreading around the globe. Researchers are learning new information about the virus every day. Here is the latest news and research.
December 9, 2016: Miami free of locally transmitted Zika; more local cases in Texas
Miami and the South Beach area have been declared free of locally transmitted Zika virus, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said. Locally transmitted cases, in which people were bitten by mosquitoes carrying Zika, began appearing in the area in July. All of Miami-Dade County is considered a Zika cautionary area, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and pregnant women are eligible for Zika virus testing.
Four additional cases suspected to be locally transmitted Zika virus have been identified in Cameron County, Texas, according to state and local health departments. The state’s first likely case of locally transmitted Zika virus was announced November 28. The new cases are in “very close proximity to the first case,” according to a statement. None of the cases is in pregnant women. Testing in the area is continuing.
November 28, 2016: Texas confirms local Zika transmission
Texas is the second state in the continental United States to confirm a locally transmitted case of the Zika virus, state and federal health officials said. Lab results confirmed the virus in a non-pregnant female resident of Brownsville in November. She has not traveled to an area where the virus is circulating and has no other known exposure to the virus that would have put her at risk for infection.
State health officials say that travel across the border is frequent in the area. Zika transmission has been reported in multiple communities on the Mexican side of the border.
November 22, 2016: Zika babies born without microcephaly may not be in the clear
A study of 13 Brazilian babies born with congenital Zika virus infection but not microcephaly found that 11 of them (85%) developed the neurological condition within their first year of life. The babies had a normal head circumference at birth and were therefore thought to be free of the sometimes-devastating condition. The researchers say this emphasizes the need for babies born to Zika-infected mothers to be followed carefully for the first 12 months of life.
November 22, 2016: North Miami Beach no longer active Zika zone
An area of North Miami Beach, Florida, is no longer “an area of active Zika transmission,” the CDC said.
No new cases of locally transmitted Zika virus have been reported in the 4.5-square-mile area for at least 45 days, the agency said, and therefore it is now a “cautionary area” along with all of Miami-Dade County.
There are still two active transmission areas in Miami: a 1½-square mile area of South Miami Beach and a 1-square-mile area of Little River, the Florida Department of Health said.
November 20, 2016: Florida Keys to begin using GMO mosquitoes
As new locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus continue to be reported daily by Florida health officials daily, residents of the Keys have given the OK to release genetically modified mosquitoes in an experimental effort to stop the Aedes aegypti, which carries Zika and other viruses. The GMO mosquitoes create a protein that interferes with the cell activity in disease-carrying female mosquitoes, killing their offspring before they reach adulthood, which is when they begin infecting humans with their bite.
Having been given the go-ahead from the FDA in August, British company Oxitec plans to begin the trial early next year and has said that if all goes well, Miami could get the mosquitoes later in the year.
November 18, 2016: WHO declares end to public health emergency
The Zika virus outbreak and related clusters of microcephaly are no longer a public health emergency of international concern, the World Health Organization said, ending the declaration it made in February. “We are not downgrading the importance of Zika. By placing this as a long-term program of work, we are saying Zika is here to stay,” said Dr. David Heymann, chairman of the emergency committee on Zika virus and microcephaly, which made the announcement.
September 28, 2016: Federal Zika emergency funding bill passed
Congress approves a bill that designates $1.1 billion in federal money to fight Zika. Though short of the $1.9 billion requested in February, this funding is welcomed by many organizations and experts working to combat the virus. According to the House Appropriations Committee, $476 million will go to the CDC, $230 million will go to the National Institutes of Health, and $141 million will be designated for local assistance at the state and county level.
September 19, 2016: Miami neighborhood declared Zika-free
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Centers for Disease Control announce the lifting of a ban on travel to the small Miami neighborhood of Wynwood, saying that aggressive mosquito-control efforts have been successful in reducing the population of Zika-carrying mosquitoes. Wynwood was the subject of a historic ban on domestic travel when, on August 1, the CDC told pregnant women not to travel to the 1-square-mile area of active Zika transmission.
However, just two days earlier, on September 17, Florida officials warned that a Zika transmission zone in Miami Beach has tripled in size.
August 12, 2016: Public health emergency declared in Puerto Rico as Zika cases surpass 10,000
The Puerto Rico Department of Health announces that there have been 10,690 cases of the Zika virus confirmed, including 1,035 pregnant women. The Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency there at the request of the governor. Secretary Sylvia Burwell said efforts are underway to fight the virus with a priority on protecting pregnant women.
August 11, 2016: Agency redirects money to fight Zika
Burwell is redirecting $81 million from elsewhere in the department to continue efforts to fight the Zika virus. She said in a letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that she was exercising her authority to transfer $34 million from within the National Institutes of Health and $47 million from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to keep “Zika-related activities” going. Without that, she said, the unused Ebola money they have been using since April will run out by the end of August and prohibit phase II of the Zika vaccine trial.
August 10, 2016: Virus found in semen six months after exposure
The Zika virus was found in the semen of two Italian men at least six months after they were exposed to the virus in Haiti. The cases are published online by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. In one case, “persistent shedding” of the virus was found in semen for six months after the man returned. In the other, the virus was found in semen six months after his symptoms began. Previously, researchers had found the virus in semen as long as three months after exposure.
August 9, 2016: Zika may cause joint problems i