Zika virus: Pets are safe, but men are not

Posted at 4:53 PM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 16:53:56-05
"Everyone throughout the state and country are working with their obstetricians to identify pregnant women who were traveling and could have been infected so we can get them tested," said Dr. Doug Holt of the Hillsborough County Health Department.
But it's not just women who physicians are concerned for. Holt said the Zika virus has been found in the semen of infected men, and it's not clear how long it stays there, or if a man can transmit the virus through sex.
That's why physicians in the Tampa Bay area are telling both men and women traveling to South America or Mexico to take extra precautions, like covering up, using bug spray, and using condoms during sexual intercourse.
Meanwhile, Holt was at the Hillsborough County Commission meeting this morning as the commissioners voted 7-0 to give the Public Works Department $475,870 to fight the Zika virus with more spraying, more testing, more traps, and an increased public outreach effort.
So far, 22 people have been confirmed to be infected, but all became infected outside of the country.
"If we had someone who developed the symptoms and the test but they had not traveled? That would really take it to another level because we would then know the virus has spread here and not somewhere else," Holt told ABC Action News.
Medical professionals tell ABC Action News that pets -- like dogs, cats and birds -- can't get the Zika virus; it only affects primates, like humans. That's not to say dogs are immune from all mosquito disease. Dogs and cats can get heartworm disease from mosquitoes, but they aren't affected by Zika, and the kind of mosquito that often causes heartworm is different than the kind that carries Zika.
Meanwhile, the race is on to create a vaccine before the humidity and the rainy season returns to Florida, which could make combating the Zika virus even more difficult.