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Documented Zika Count Tops 200, But Public Health Experts Say Actual Tally Is Even Higher

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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.

As a Tallahassee native, Kate Payne grew up listening to WFSU. She loves being part of a station that had such an impact on her. Kate is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. With a background in documentary and narrative filmmaking, Kate has a broad range of multimedia experience. When she’s not working, you can find her rock climbing, cooking or hanging out with her cat.