There have been a lot of headlines over the past couple of weeks on the Zika Virus spreading to Florida. With all of the commotion we wanted to share some basics and an overview of what the state is doing in response.
What is the Zika Virus?
Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The virus causes little to no symptoms. However, Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. Currently, there isn’t a vaccine or medical treatment for Zika.
The Zika Virus currently affects many South American countries as well as the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico. There have been 15 reported cases of mosquito related Zika in Florida; all of which are located in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami.
What Has Been Done So Far?
The Zika Virus is quickly becoming a hot button policy issue. Congress failed to pass $1.1 billion in funding that would have went to curb the spread of the virus before their summer recess. President Obama has sent $5.6 million to Florida to assist in combating the virus while congress is on recess. The state has also allocated $26.2 million to fight Zika.
On Monday, the Florida Department of Health announced that Florida had 14 cases of individuals contacting Zika through a mosquito bite. After the announcement, Governor Rick Scott called upon the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to activate a CDC Emergency Response Team (CERT) to assist the Florida Department of Health and other partners in their investigation, sample collection, and mosquito control efforts. Florida has a good track record of fighting mosquito borne illness, having fought off the Chikungunya Virus and Dengue Fever in the past.
What Can We Expect to Happen?
While we cannot be sure what exactly will happen, we expect that state and federal funding will be spent on researching a cure for the virus, and education on how to prevent it from spreading further. Legislators are hopeful that congress will return from recess and pass funding to combat the virus. It is possible that efforts to curb the spread of the virus may be a big topic during the Florida 2017 Legislative Session.
What Can You Do to Help?
It is important that we all do our part to prevent the spread of the Zika Virus. This means eliminating any standing water that may be on your property, make sure windows and doors are properly screened, use bug spray when doing outdoor activities and wear long sleeves and pants, and take precautions to avoid being bitten by staying away from mosquito prone areas. The Florida Department of Health is also providing free Zika tests to all pregnant woman who would like to be tested at county health departments statewide.
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