Zika virus: What your family needs to know

Posted at 5:46 PM, Feb 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-01 17:46:36-05
The World Health Organization calls the spread of the Zika virus in the Americas an international emergency.
Only one type of mosquito can carry the virus, and you can find it here in Tampa Bay. 
It's called the Aedes Aegypti, or yellow fever mosquito. 
"We're starting to see expansion of this mosquito back into Florida," Dr. Robert Novak said. 
Right now the health department said there are three imported cases of the Zika virus in Florida, one of those in Hillsborough County.
Novak, professor of global health at USF, has been studying these mosquitos for 40 years. He said the Zika virus originated in Uganda but probably got to Brazil during the World Cup. 
The mosquitos that can carry the virus need little water to breed. 
"It does just as well in the backyard swimming pool of your children or a flower pot that accumulates water or used tires," he said. 
If you're wondering how little water it takes to breed mosquitos, one dropper full is enough for mosquito larvae to emerge as a flying adult. 
Take precautions like getting rid of stagnant water where mosquitos can lay eggs and wearing repellent with deet. But Novak said we don't have an epidemic in Florida.
"You would have to have a combination of a person with that virus in an area where the appropriate mosquito is found, Aedes Aegypti," he said. 
Right now we know pregnant women are at the highest risk. The virus is linked to babies born with unusually small heads. Information about the virus is still limited. 
"We've got to be vigilant, we've got to monitor it,  we've got to look at our mosquito population that could produce the highest risk," Novak said. 
This is the fourth time the World Health Organization classified an international health emergency. Others include the Ebola outbreak in 2014, a resurgence of Polio in 2014 and the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.