The Florida governor’s office has released—apparently quite reluctantly, given their earlier denial—a map showing a new region of probable local Zika transmission in Florida. The last such map outlined a small, primarily residential neighborhood, far from areas of concern to most tourists or even most local residents. And, clearly, even further from concern to members of Congress.
This map? Probably not so much.
Five cases of local Zika transmission have been confirmed in Miami Beach, in an area including the city center and a significant portion of the South Beach. Two of those cases are local residents; the other three are tourists—one each from New York, Texas, and Taiwan. Of course, because of the nature of the disease, with many cases asymptomatic in health adults, it’s safe to assume that there are more infected individuals in and near Miami Beach, and that some fraction of the local mosquito population are now active carriers.
This is just the latest in a cluster of bad news about the disease. In Puerto Rico, at least thirty people have been diagnosed with Zika-induced Guillain–Barré syndrome; more cases are expected. And, a mouse-model study suggests that the disease might be capable of harming adult brains as well as interfering with fetal development, potentially putting those infected at risk of depression or dementia later in life. And—because we needed more bad news—researchers have determined that the disease can persist in semen for six months after infection; there is a possibility that this finding means Zika is capable of reproducing indefinitely in the male genital tract, effectively becoming a true STI in addition to a mosquito-borne disease.
Congressional Republicans own the costs of the spread of this disease, by refusing to fund efforts to understand it and stop it. But they will not be the ones to pay the price of inaction; that burden will be borne by the men, women, and children affected by Zika, now and in the future.