A public health emergency has been declared in four counties which have confirmed cases of the Zika virus.
“Today I am directing Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong to declare a public health emergency in the four counties that have individuals with the Zika virus. Although Florida’s current nine Zika cases were travel-related, we have to ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the spread of the Zika virus in our state," said Governor Rick Scott. "We know that we must be prepared for the worst even as we hope for the best,” he added.
There are currently a total of nine travel-associated cases in Florida.
“At this point we do not have Florida transmitted cases. As of now they are all from travelers, so it’s not in our backyard yet,” said Dr. Beata Casanas, a University of South Florida Health and Tampa General Hospital infectious disease expert.
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Putting fears into perspective, she said Florida has previously faced mosquito-transmitted diseases.
“We had West Nile Virus, we had Chikungunya, we have Dengue and we have been successful in eradicating them locally. So this is nothing new for us. This is just another challenge,” Casanas said.
Where cases have been reported
Miami-Dade: 4 cases
Hillsborough: 2 cases
Lee: 2 cases
Santa Rosa: 1 case
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
“There is no vaccine at this time and no medication. Our best defense is prevention,” Casanas said.
Get rid of standing water where mosquitos breed. Hillsborough County said they’ve added five more mosquito traps to West Tampa, bringing their total to 70.
Another invisible threat: Only 20 percent of people infected with the Zika virus will ever know it.
“Eighty percent of people with the virus will have no symptoms. They will never know that they had the infection,” Casanas said.
Doctors will also ask anyone coming in with symptoms where they’ve traveled. The Health Department said it's providing information to OBGYNs in case pregnant women have questions.
Hillsborough County also sent this message to neighborhood leaders Wednesday:
We are asking for your assistance as community leaders to help get the following information to Hillsborough County residents.Hillsborough County is one of several locations in Florida where individuals have been identified with the Zika virus. All of those infected acquired the illness while traveling internationally. At this time there are no cases of locally acquired Zika reported in Florida, and we have no reason to believe our local mosquito population is carrying the virus. Hillsborough County Mosquito Control operates in coordination with the Florida Department of Health to implement policies and procedures to prevent and control the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses.Avoiding mosquito bites is the best prevention against Zika. Mosquito Control sprays insecticides to kill mosquitoes, but we always need the public’s help to remove breeding habitats in residential areas.Here’s how you can help:
- Drain: water from garbage cans, gutters, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots, or any other containers where water has collected.
- Discard: Old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances, and other items that aren't being used.
- Empty and Clean: Birdbaths and pets’ water bowls at least once or twice a week.
- Protect: Boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don't accumulate water.
- Maintain: The water balance (pool chemistry) of swimming pools. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use. Repair broken screens on windows, doors, porches, and patios.
- Clothing: Cover up – always wear socks and shoes, long pants, and long-sleeved sleeves.
- Repellent: Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing. Always use repellents according to the label.
- Travelers returning from international locations are cautioned to wear mosquito repellent for two weeks after they return home.
For information on the Zika virus and mosquito bite prevention: www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/zika-virus/index.html.
For tips to help eliminate backyard mosquito breeding sites: www.HillsboroughCounty.org/MosquitoNinja.