Florida health officials are investigating a possible second case of the Zika virus that may have been locally transmitted. The announcement of the case, in Broward County, comes two days after the state said it was investigating a possible homegrown case in Miami-Dade County.
If the cases are confirmed, they would be the first times a person has been infected with the virus by a mosquito in the continental United States. There are more than 1,300 confirmed Zika cases in the country, but all of them had been contracted through travel abroad — by a mosquito bite or by sexual intercourse with someone who had traveled to a Zika-infected area.
Florida, with its heavy volume of travelers to and from countries where Zika is circulating, has had the most cases. The state health department has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to analyze the two cases.
Zika, a virus transmitted by mosquitoes or by sex with a person who has been infected by a mosquito, causes brain damage and neurological disorders in babies born to mothers who contracted it in pregnancy. It has spread throughout Latin America, causing hundreds of birth defects among largely poor populations that are ill-equipped to handle them.
But the virus is not expected to spread rapidly in the continental United States, partly because Americans are often in air-conditioned cars and houses, making it harder for mosquitoes to pick up the virus and spread it. (The virus has been spreading explosively in Puerto Rico, a United States territory.)