As of Wednesday, there are now 213 documented cases of the Zika virus in Florida. But some public health experts are saying the actual number is probably much higher.
In epidemiology, the phenomenon is called the ‘reporting bias’. While Zika can pose a particular threat to pregnant women, for many, the symptoms are mild - even nonexistent. Some people may contract the virus, transmit it, and never know they had it in the first place. Thomas Unnasch studies mosquito-borne diseases at the University of South Florida’s Department of Global Health. And he believes all those unreported cases means the actual tally is much higher.
“Absolutely. It’s the tip of the iceberg phenomenon. We see this with a lot of other infections as well,” he said.
According to the Florida Department of Health, there is no local transmission by mosquitoes yet. But Unnasch isn’t too worried about the insects; he believes the real concern is sexual transmission.
“People who have been traveling to places like Puerto Rico, males, who’ve been there for three, four, five days, come back and don’t have any symptoms. I don’t think they’re going to be refraining from unprotected intercourse necessarily with their spouses or their partners for six to eight months,” he said.
Miami-Dade, Broward and Orange County are the hardest hit, and the number of cases documented per day is on the rise.