- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 21, 2016

The National Institutes of Health’s director of infectious diseases said Sunday he still doesn’t expect widespread transmission of the Zika virus in the continental U.S., though states like Louisiana and Texas should brace themselves for the type of small, mosquito-borne outbreaks that have struck South Florida.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said while there is little risk of a “diffuse, broad outbreak” in the states, the virus is something that could fester for a while, citing related viruses like dengue fever, which cropped up in clusters in past years and then slowly burned out.

“This is something that could hang around for a year or two” as travelers return from hard-hit areas of Latin America with the disease, Dr. Fauci told ABC’s “This Week.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned pregnant women on Friday to stay away from a section of Miami Beach, Florida, where five people appeared to have contracted Zika virus, which can cause birth defects to infants born to infected mothers.

FLorida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, said the popular tourist spot is the second area of local transmission in his state. Previously, infection by mosquito bite appeared to be limited to the artsy Wynwood neighborhood just north of downtown Miami. All told, the state has seen 36 locally acquired infections.

Officials say they are aggressively mobilizing to spray for Aedes aegypti mosquitos in each area, so Zika doesn’t spread further.

Still, Dr. Fauci said other states along the Gulf of Mexico could see local transmission later this year.

Louisiana, in particular, is recovering from devastating floods that will leave plenty of breeding spots for mosquitoes in the central part of the state.

“There’s going to be a lot of problems getting rid of standing water,” Dr. Fauci said.

Frank Welch, medical director for the Florida Health Department’s Bureau of Community Preparedness, said raging flood waters likely knocked out many breeding sites, though the risk of mosquito proliferation will rise in the coming weeks.

“Short term, less worry — long term, more worry” Dr. Welch said.

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