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Mosquito-Related Zika Cases Reported In South Florida

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Florida Department of Health
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  As Florida goes through its typical humid, bug-filled summer, Florida is recording its first home-grown cases of Zika. 

Governor Rick Scott says all four people live in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. One of the cases involves a woman and the other three involve men, none of whom have needed to be hospitalized.

“The Florida Department of Health believes that active transmissions of this virus could be occurring in one small area in Miami-Dade County, just north of downtown,” said Scott. “

Florida has seen a steady increase in Zika diagnoses in recent months, with the total number of cases nearing 400. There have been two cases each in Escambia and Okaloosa Counties, and one in Santa Rosa. But the main focus is on south Florida.

“Testing of mosquitoes in this area has been happening in this small area for about two weeks,” said the Governor. “While no mosquito traps have tested positive for the Zika virus, the Department of Health is aggressively testing people in the affected area to ensure there are no other cases of this virus.”

Until Friday, health officials said cases involved people infected because of travel to places such as South America, where the virus emerged last year. Since Zika is linked to severe birth defects, one major concern remains how the virus affects pregnant women. 

Meanwhile, calls are going out, again, for residents to help protect the public, through measures aimed at keeping the mosquito threat to a minimum. 

Escambia County Health Director Dr. John Lanza says “Drain and Cover” are a collection of some common-sense measures of self-protection.  Long sleeves and pants when mosquitoes are at their thickest is the “cover” part. 

“Loose-fitting, lighter-colored clothing is the way to go with that,” Lanza said. “A hat also helps protect your head. The other part, other than the clothing, is DEET. Put the DEET either on yourself or on your clothes, and it’s very effective.”

 The “drain” part is making sure all standing water is dumped, including what’s accumulated both outside and inside. 

After Friday’s announcement, OneBlood said that all blood collections throughout the firm’s service area in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina will be tested for Zika. OneBlood’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rita Reik says they’re using an investigational donor screening test.

“This is a test that’s extremely sensitive,” says Reik. “It looks for particles of actually the viral DNA in the blood.”

The Department of Health is providing $620,000 to OneBlood to help with the screening. If a unit of blood tests positive for Zika, it will be quarantined, and OneBlood will notify the donor, the Florida Department of Health, the FDA and the CDC. 

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced a number of commercial pest control firms would join the fight, by spraying certain areas. He also sought to reassure Floridians that the threat in Florida is not as large as that in the Caribbean and South America.

“While Florida is a warm, wet, sub-tropical climate, it’s very different than the nations that have seen much, much higher incidents of the Zika spread,” says Putnam. “Largely because of the higher standards of living in the state of Florida.”

More information can be found at www.cdc.gov.

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.