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BY DANIEL CHANG
Florida health officials confirmed three new cases of Zika virus in Miami-Dade on Tuesday, raising the statewide total to 91 people infected by the disease since February — most in the nation — as President Barack Obama signed legislation fast tracking the regulatory process for developing a vaccine.
The bill signed by the president prioritizes review of Zika virus within the Food and Drug Administration., allowing officials to test a vaccine for Zika more quickly.
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health has said the agency hopes to have a possible vaccine ready for human trials in early fall.
Zika virus has hit Florida harder than any other state. Among at least 15 Florida counties affected by Zika virus, Miami-Dade is home to the greatest number of cases with 39 people affected, according to the state’s count.
Of the cases confirmed in Florida, four cases are still exhibiting symptoms, which include fever, joint pain, rash and red eyes lasting seven to 10 days, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Florida has reported Zika infections in five pregnant women, who are considered to be at greatest risk from the infectious disease because of a conclusive link between the virus and congenital microcephaly, a condition in which a newborn’s head is smaller than expected, which can lead to developmental issues.
The CDC recommends that women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant postpone travel to affected areas where Zika is locally transmitted, including much of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Nearly all of Florida’s cases were acquired by people traveling outside the country, except for one case of sexual transmission in Polk County.
Last week, U.S. officials recommended deferral of blood donors in U.S. areas where Zika is actively transmitted until blood donations can be screened. Puerto Rico is the first U.S. area to need to comply with the guidance from the FDA.
There have been 358 confirmed cases of Zika in the continental United States as of April 13, including 31 pregnant women, according to the CDC. Seven of the cases were sexually transmitted, and at least one led to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological disorder.
* Counties of pregnant women not reported – Source: Florida Department of Health
To help residents resolve questions about the virus and its spread, the state has set up a Zika Virus Information Hotline. That number is 1-855-622-6735. The hotline has fielded more than 1,550 calls since it was launched Feb. 12, the state reported.