Florida has a total of nine reported cases of Zika virus, health officials confirmed Tuesday.
The cases are believed to be contracted outside of the state.
Where cases have been reportedMiami-Dade: 4 casesHillsborough: 2 casesLee: 2 casesSanta Rosa: 1 case
ABC Action News spoke to Dr. Stephanie Romero, assistant professor of maternal field medicine at the University of South Florida. Romero said she is not surprised by the cases in the bay area and anticipates more in the coming year.
"Inevitably, there will be more and more cases. We also have a port here where people will be able to travel back and forth from the Caribbean. So, I think inevitably there will be more and more cases," Romero said. "The question remains...How much of an impact will it have on people's long term health?"
Another question Romero has is when does the virus hurt unborn children's brains and neurological development.
"My big question, as it concerns being able to council my patients, is it more important if someone becomes infected during a certain time of their pregnancy," Romero said. "For example, if you get past the first trimester can you take a deep breath and say you are free? Or is it more important later in pregnancy? Those are questions we still need to answer."
Romero recommends women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should wear long sleeves, insect repellent and avoid mosquito hot spots. Health officials say, at this point, the virus could live in a host for a day or a week. The CDC confirmed it can be transferred through sex. However, the transfer from semen has not been traced to birth defects in newborns.
The CDC has not identified Florida as an area of local Zika risk, but the Florida Department of Health is closely monitoring imported disease.
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None of the confirmed cases involve pregnant women.
"Florida has many years of success in containing other mosquito-borne diseases and emerging health threats," said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. "Through these experiences, the department remains ready to protect residents and visitors from the Zika virus."
What is Zika Virus?
- Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.
- Outbreaks of Zika have occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas.
- There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika.
- Travelers can protect themselves from this disease by taking steps to prevent mosquito bites.- Info provided by the CDC