The first sexually transmitted Zika infection in Florida has been reported in Polk County, state health officials said Wednesday.
The person who contracted the virus caught it from someone who had recently traveled outside of the country, the health department said. All of the 51 other cases reported in Florida have involved people returning from Zika-infected countries.
News of the person-to-person transmission prompted Gov. Rick Scott to ask the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for another conference call with Florida health workers.
"I appreciate the CDC for previously speaking with Florida doctors and health care workers on a conference call last month, but it is imperative that the most up-to-date information is available so we can stay ahead of the possible spread of the Zika virus in Florida," Scott said in a statement.
Zika has been spreading across the Americas since late last year. The virus is most often transmitted by mosquito. But public health officials say it can also be spread through sexual intercourse.
Earlier this week, World Health Organization Director General Dr. Margaret Chan said investigations "strongly suggest that sexual transmission of the virus is more common than previously assumed."
Most people who are infected with Zika don't know they have it; others experience mild, cold-like symptoms.
The greatest potential risk is to pregnant women. Doctors in countries where the virus is prevalent have noticed an increase in the number of babies born with underdeveloped brains, and believe a link is possible.
Scientists have yet to prove the association between Zika and the condition known as microcephaly . But research published by Florida State University last week shows the virus targets brain development cells.
Of the 52 cases reported in Florida, four have involved pregnant women, according to the state health department. The lion's share (31) were reported in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Hillsborough, Lee and Orange counties each have reported three cases.
Nationally, 153 cases have been reported, according to the CDC.
Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.