Zika Virus in Florida is Moving Outside of Miami

Posted on September 14, 2016

Nationwide, about 3,000 people have been diagnosed with infection by the mosquito borne Zika virus. Most of those cases were contracted while traveling to South and Central America. While not particularly harmful to most people, Zika infection can cause serious birth defects, including microcephaly (inhibited brain development), if contracted by pregnant women. In Florida, 84 pregnant women have tested positive for the Zika virus. This prompted Florida Governor Rick Scott to offer free Zika virus testing to all of the state’s pregnant women. So many women responded to the offer that test results are backlogged for two weeks or more. This creates a problem because Florida forbids abortions after 24 weeks, prohibiting that option for some infected women.

Florida takes the threat of the Zika virus seriously, tracking its spread on a daily basis. Currently, Duval County has eight cases of travel-related Zika, St. Johns County has four, Miami-Dade reports 194 (with 58 cases from bites from local mosquitoes), Orange County reports 70, and Broward County has 107. While Zika was initially confined to the southern part of the state, cases have now been reported as far north as Tallahassee and the Panhandle. The Miami Herald reports that there are some concerns about the accuracy of the state’s reporting, because state numbers do not include anyone who is not a resident of Florida. In other words, Florida may be under-reporting the actual number of identified cases. “That is particularly egregious to tourists,” says an expert in infectious diseases.

In August, Miami began the aerial spraying of the insecticide, Naled. This has caused many Miamians to protest the spraying, citing health concerns. The European Union banned Naled in 2012, over concerns for the safety of human and aquatic life. Commercial honey bee farmers in South Carolina have reported that Naled spraying killed their bees.

The Zika virus is primarily carried by the infected Aedes Aegypti mosquito. As a precaution, all Florida residents are urged to drain any areas of standing water to minimize mosquito breeding grounds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director, Thomas Frieden, recently announced the government is out of money to fight the Zika virus and warned that the country is “about to see a bunch of kids born with microcephaly” in the coming months.

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