Officials in Florida are investigating what is believed to be the first case of the Zika virus being transmitted by a mosquito within the United States.
Previously 1,304 confirmed cases of Zika in the US have emanated from those who have travelled to infected areas, while one person caught the disease via sexual intercourse and another in a laboratory.
However, the first possible case of non-sexual human-to-human transmission is now being investigated.
The Florida department of health acknowledged the issue in an official statement.
“Today the Florida Department of Health announced that it is conducting an investigation into a possible non-travel related case of Zika virus in Miami-Dade County. The department is actively conducting an epidemiological investigation, is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and will share additional details as they become available.”
The Zika virus has already caused more than 1,500 birth defects, with Brazil badly affected.
Some athletes have withdrawn from the forthcoming Olympic games in Rio with this in mind.
Cuba, 90 miles from the coast of Florida, has also confirmed 14 cases of locally-transmitted Zika.
But a mosquito-based case in the United States would represent a worrying new phase in the outbreak.
Health experts in the US have been predicting the arrival of Zika-carrying mosquitoes on its shores for many months, and have begun information campaigns and spraying of water-logged sites to kill the insects.
But Congress has risen for the seven-week summer recess without approving President Barack Obama’s $1.1 billion plan, announced in February, to fight the virus.
Democrats have blocked the bill after Republicans insisted that a cut to Planned Parenthood funding be included in it.
Thomas Frieden, director of the Center for Disease Control, has been outspoken on the political wrangling, deeming it “no way to fight an epidemic.”
“Mosquitoes don’t go on summer break. We would like to begin really important activities that will help us, for instance, better understand the long-term impact on infants born to mothers who are infected over the long term. We would like to improve our ability to diagnose Zika. We’d like to have better ways to control mosquitoes,” Frieden commented.
Frieden also conceded that tackling Zika would be challenging, but urged the efforts of government to be accelerated rapidly.
“Those are all going to take significant effort and significant time, and we are not able to get the aggressive start on them we would like to.”