One year ago Sunday, a mosquito put South Florida in the international spotlight.
The first case of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the mainland U.S. was confirmed in Miami-Dade County by public health officials on Jan. 15, 2016. The patient had been infected in another country and then traveled here.
As of this month, there are more than 1,200 cases statewide — 256 of them transmitted by local mosquitoes — although the number of new diagnoses began dropping in the fall, as cooler, drier weather cut the insect population.
So will we see the end of Zika in 2017?
It’s hard to say.
Public health forecasters at the University of Florida say it’s doubtful Zika is finished — although exactly how long the virus may hang around, and whether it will spread to other parts of the state and nation, is uncertain.
Ira Longini, a biostatistics professor at the University of Florida’s College of Public Health and College of Medicine, predicts Zika transmission will continue in the Americas this year, with South Florida and Texas the most likely mainland U.S. hot spots. Both had locally transmitted Zika outbreaks last year.
Longini, whose mathematical models are used to steer vaccine development and disease prevention response, predicts Zika will become endemic here — meaning, it’s a health risk South Floridians’ will need to be aware of and deal with.
“it may be relatively rare but it will be around”, said Longini. He does expect downturn, though, until spring.
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Originally published January 14, 2017 by the Sun Sentinel