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Pentagon: 33 American Service Members Have Contracted Zika Overseas

In this May 17, 2016, photo, Matthew Aliota, assistant scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, works with a strain of Aedes aegypti mosquito in a research lab. (Jeff Miller/UW-Madison via AP)
In this May 17, 2016, photo, Matthew Aliota, assistant scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, works with a strain of Aedes aegypti mosquito in a research lab. (Jeff Miller/UW-Madison via AP)

WASHINGTON – At least 33 active-duty service members, including one pregnant woman, have contracted the Zika virus while serving overseas, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.

Six family members of service members have also contracted the virus outside of the continental United States, said Army Maj. Roger Cabiness, a spokesman for the Defense Department. Those numbers were current as of Friday.

The virus has spread through much of Latin America and the Caribbean since its outbreak in Brazil in May 2015. Its connections to pregnancy defects, confirmed by scientists at the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have led the World Health Organization to declare it a global emergency. The Defense Department has taken steps to monitor and control the populations of mosquitos capable of carrying the virus, which are found at nearly 200 stateside installations from Texas in the west to Florida and as far north as New York, according to Pentagon information.

"DOD is actively testing mosquitoes for Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases in the U.S. as part of our ongoing integrated vector control and surveillance programs at bases and installations," Cabiness said.

Most people who contract the virus will likely remain asymptomatic, according to the CDC, but "there is now enough evidence to conclude" that Zika can cause pregnancy complications that produce severe fetal abnormalities, including microcephaly, a rare condition that causes unusually small heads and lack of brain development in children.

Information about the pregnant servicemember or the condition of her unborn child was not immediately available Monday, said Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson, a Pentagon spokesman, who cited privacy laws.

There have been at least 1,650 cases of Zika in the United States, according to the CDC. The vast majority have been transmitted outside the continental United States, though some transmissions have occurred through sexual contact with someone who contracted it while traveling.

However, Florida health officials have determined mosquitoes in a small area of Miami have spread the virus to at least four people, according to the CDC. The Associated Press, citing Florida Gov. Rick Scott, reported Monday up to 14 people had contracted Zika through local mosquitoes in Miami.

There are several DOD installations in and around Miami, but no mosquitos on any of those bases or any others in the United States have tested positive for Zika.

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