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Zika Virus 'Most Likely' Present In Miami Mosquitoes; First Transmission In US

U.S. Centers for Disease Control

The Zika virus is most likely present in Florida mosquitoes, health officials announced Friday. 

That’s after they investigated four cases of Zika in Miami-Dade and Broward counties: three in men and one in a woman.

The state Health Department believes all transmissions have taken place in a small area of Miami, near the Midtown and Wynwood neighborhoods.

In Orlando Friday morning, Gov. Rick Scott said he won’t hesitate to pour more emergency money into fighting the virus, which is known to cause severe birth defects when pregnant women contract it.

Last month, he used his emergency executive authority to allocate $26.2 million in state funds for Zika preparedness, prevention and response.  He says he’ll continue traveling the state and speaking with local leaders, as well as port and airport officials, to ensure their needs are met. 

“When we find an area that we think might be impacted, we will be there,” he said. “We will be there to help get rid of the standing water. We will be there to spray with hand sprayers, and we’ll be very aggressive in making sure this doesn’t spread.”

Health officials say they’ll be testing anyone who shows Zika symptoms: fever, red eyes, aches and a rash.

At the same time, OneBlood blood donation centers are testing 100 percent of the blood collected between South Florida and South Carolina for the virus. 

In a news release, Scott said: 

“We know this virus is most detrimental to expecting mothers.  If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant and live in the impacted area, I urge you to contact your OB/GYN for guidance and to receive a Zika Prevention kit.  I also ask every Floridian to take proper precautions by eliminating any standing water and wearing insect repellent.

“Following today’s news, I directed the Department of Health to immediately begin contracting with commercial pest control companies to increase spraying and mosquito abatement efforts in the impacted area.  We know from our experience with successfully dealing with other mosquito-borne viruses in our state that through constant surveillance and immediate action that we will protect our families and visitors.  We will continue this same approach as we work to combat the Zika virus in our state.  Florida is an outdoors state with pristine beaches, award-winning state parks and world class fishing.  We continue to welcome record visitors to Florida and will remind everyone in our state to take proper precautions and wear insect repellent.”

Scott has also directed DOH to do the following:

·       Provide $620,000 to OneBlood, the primary blood bank in the area, to establish appropriate blood screening.  DOH will be working with FDA and blood establishments in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties to test each individual unit of blood collected.  Additionally, statewide DOH will ensure safe blood for pregnant women by screening units from counties without Zika.

·       Work with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to issue a Mosquito Declaration and ensure that Mosquito Control in the areas of concern have the resources they need to combat further local transmission. Miami-Dade and Broward County Mosquito Control Districts will receive $1.28 million in state funds through December to combat Zika.

·       Continue investigations in concert with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure we learn all we can about Zika as an emerging disease.

·       Coordinate with OB/GYNs and organizations that serve pregnant woman in the affected area to distribute Zika prevention kits to pregnant women.

·       Ongoing door-to-door outreach in the areas of concern with continued mosquito mitigation activities and repellant distribution.

·       Partner with VISIT FLORIDA to distribute educational items, repellant and Zika prevention kits for pregnant women to visitor centers in the impacted areas.

·       Partner with the Florida Department of Education to ensure that mosquito breeding source reduction and mitigation activities have occurred at all schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties ahead of children returning to classes this fall.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP