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Four Zika cases identified in Miami, Florida

Published:Friday | July 29, 2016 | 2:32 PM
Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks at a news conference, on July 29 in Orlando, Florida, where he announced that the state likely has the first cases of Zika transmitted by mosquitoes on the US mainland.

Mosquitoes have apparently begun spreading the Zika virus on the US mainland for the first time, Florida officials said Friday in a long-feared turn in the epidemic that is sweeping Latin America and the Caribbean.

Four recently infected people in the Miami area – one woman and three men – are believed to have caught the virus locally through mosquito bites, Governor Rick Scott said at a news conference.

No mosquitoes in Florida have actually been found to be carrying Zika, despite the testing of 19,000 by the state lab. But other methods of Zika transmission, such as travel to a stricken country or sex with an infected person, have been ruled out.

US health officials said they do not expect a widespread outbreak of the sort seen in Brazil and other countries. While officials have long predicted mosquitoes in the continental US would begin spreading Zika this summer, they have also said they expect only isolated clusters of infections.

More than 1,650 people in the mainland US have been infected with Zika in recent months. But the four people in Florida are believed to be first ones to contract the virus within the 50 states from mosquitoes.

"This is not just a Florida issue. It's a national issue – we just happen to be at the forefront," Scott said.