The Zika virus in Florida is on the rise and officials fear the worst because the total number of confirmed cases of the virus in the state has climbed to 75. According to information released by the Florida Department of Health on Monday, that number reflects the latest data, Patch reports. The Sunshine State, whose location and climate makes it conducive to Zika virus, is prepared to face it and prevent its spread, officials said.
As mentioned above, Florida now has 75 recorded cases of Zika virus, all in people who traveled to areas infected with the virus, especially in Latin American countries, Anna Marie Likos, an epidemiologist at the Department of Health of Florida, said during a recent seminar at the University of Miami.
Florida, especially the Miami airport, is the gateway of tourists from Latin America, the region hardest hit by the virus, which has caused alarm because it has been linked to serious birth defects.
“We’re very concerned about the Zika virus,” said Dr. John Beier, director of the division of environmental and public health in the department of public health sciences at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. “As you know, it causes microcephaly [a birth defect] but it is also the first sexually transmitted vector-borne disease.”
As said in a report from the Miami Herald, Zika preparedness is particularly significant for Florida, which leads all states in the number of confirmed cases, including five pregnant women, who are considered to be at greatest risk from the infectious disease. There have been 312 confirmed cases of Zika virus in the continental U.S. as of March 30, according to the CDC.
“The summertime will be a perfect storm,” Beier explained. “You’ve got mosquitoes, the virus, human travel. We’re expecting a lot of those travelers to return to South Florida.”
The state also provides an ideal environment for breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also transmits dengue and Chikungunya. But dengue and Chikungunya have been able to be kept at bay in the past in Florida, according to Lillian Rivera, director of the Miami-Dade County health department.
“Even though Zika is cause for concern and action, there’s no need to panic,” Rivera said. “We will deal with this because we have great scientists and we have great resources that can get us through this whole situation of Zika.”
The state’s confirmed cases now include residents from 14 different counties, plus four cases involving pregnant women. Florida governor Rick Scott declared a public health emergency in February for several counties which had reported cases of the Zika virus.
“Today I am directing Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong to declare a public health emergency in the four counties that have individuals with the Zika virus,” the governor said in a statement. “Although Florida’s current nine Zika cases were travel-related, we have to ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the spread of the Zika virus in our state. Our Department of Health will continue to be in constant communication with all county health offices, hospitals and the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We know that we must be prepared for the worst even as we hope for the best.”
Zika outbreak and its potential association with birth defects prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a global health emergency. In Brazil, the most affected country, 1.5 million people have been infected.
South Florida’s mosquito control efforts are effectively and swiftly containing the spread of Zika and new methods of containing mosquito populations, such as introducing genetically modified mosquitoes, are being explored.
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