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New Escambia Zika Case, No Florida Transmissions Yet

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Five new cases of the Zika virus have been reported in Florida, bringing the total to 171 statewide, including one in Escambia County. Thirty-eight of the Florida cases involve pregnant women. 

The Escambia County case – who’s not being identified -- joins one in Santa Rosa earlier this year – the latter having long since made a full recovery. The other new cases are in Hillsborough, Osceola, Palm Beach and Seminole Counties. All are travel-related.

“It’s important to know that no one has become infected with Zika in the state of Florida,” said Agriculture Sec. Adam Putnam.” And we have found no mosquito that has Zika in the State of Florida. But that doesn’t mean it’s not prudent to look.”

 

Putnam hosted a recent media briefing on how the state is monitoring the virus. Of the cases confirmed in Florida, seven are still exhibiting symptoms, which the CDC says can last 7-10 days. Pregnant women are at highest risk if infected by Zika, which can cause birth defects and brain damage in their unborn children.  

“This is the first time that we know of one of these mosquito-borne diseases that would devastate essentially a baby,” said Dr. John Lanza, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County.

“Microcephaly is a lifelong problem,” Lanza said. “It causes cognitive issues, intelligence issues in that baby and there’s no treatment for it.”

The CDC recommends that women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant postpone travel to Zika-affected areas. Providers should also consider testing pregnant women with a history of such travel, along with additional ultrasounds for pregnant women with a history of the Zika virus. 

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says his agency is using mosquito traps placed around the state. Plans are to use about 300 traps in 57 counties. Once the flying pests are captured, they are tested for Zika.

“It begins with a simple, clear [container], we take the samples of mosquitoes [and] add common BBs to shake up the sample,” said Putnam. “So that you eventually end up with a ‘mosquito milkshake’ that we can test for the Zika virus.”

But the traps and the lab work are only surveillance. Putnam joins health officials in asking the public to be proactive around their homes. 

“Draining flowerpots that have standing water; bringing pet dishes inside,” Putnam said. “Anywhere you have that standing water near your home, then you are potentially providing habitat for mosquitoes.”

There are over 600 diagnosed cases of Zika in the United States, according to the CDC. But with four out of five people infected either showing mild symptoms – or none at all – that number could be much higher.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.