The Florida Department of Health announced Tuesday that it is investigating a Zika case that was not carried by a traveler. If confirmed, it would be the first time Zika virus has spread by mosquito bite in the continental U.S.
Up until this point, Zika has only affected those who had traveled to affected areas before returning to the states, as well as some of their sexual partners.
The Department of Health is working with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to determine whether or not the patient contracted the virus by an infected mosquito—and if there is an infected mosquito population in Florida.
The case was reported in Miami-Dale county, where there have been 88 cases of Zika so far this year, all travel-related.
CDC officials have been preparing for small, local outbreaks of the Zika virus in southern states like Florida, Texas, and Louisiana because of their population of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito type that carries the virus.
CDC also reported Monday that a Utah resident was mysteriously infected with the virus after caring for a family member who had traveled to a Zika-affected area; they are still investigating the case.
“Fortunately, the patient recovered quickly, and from what we have seen with more than 1,300 travel-associated cases of Zika in the continental United States and Hawaii, non-sexual spread from one person to another does not appear to be common,” Erin Staples, medical epidemiologist for the CDC, said in a statement.
Zika’s most common symptoms—which last up to a week but only appear in about a fifth of the people who contract the virus—are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. However, it can cause serious birth defects if a pregnant woman becomes infected, and has also been linked to more serious immune system conditions.
Federal and local officials are working on mosquito control to reduce the number of mosquitos in southern states, including Florida. Residents and visitors should take precautions to protect themselves against the virus: cover bare skin, wear mosquito repellent and drain standing water.