Gov. Rick Scott said Monday that 10 more people are believed to have contracted the Zika virus through mosquito bites in Miami and that the state is asking for additional help from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The announcement came after Scott and health officials disclosed Friday that the first four locally transmitted Zika cases had been diagnosed in residents of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. About 400 Zika cases have been diagnosed in the state, but until Friday all of the cases were described as travel-related.
A statement released by Scott’s office said the 14 locally transmitted cases are believed to have occurred in a 1-square-mile area north of downtown Miami.
“Today, DOH (the Florida Department of Health) has confirmed that 10 additional people have contracted the Zika virus locally, likely through a mosquito bite,” Scott said in the statement. “DOH has been testing individuals in three locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties for possible local transmissions through mosquito bites. Based on DOH’s investigations, two locations have been ruled out for possible local transmissions of the Zika virus. DOH believes local transmissions are still only occurring in the same square mile area of Miami.”
Scott also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a notice advising women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant to avoid unnecessary travel to the targeted area. The virus is particularly dangerous to pregnant women and can cause severe birth defects.
“While we continue to learn more about this virus each day, we know that it is most harmful to pregnant women and their babies,” Scott said in the statement. “For women who live or work in the impacted area and are either pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, I urge you to contact your OB/GYN for guidance and to receive a Zika prevention kit.”
Scott said he also is asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to activate an “emergency response team” to help the Department of Health. The federal agency has been heavily involved for months in trying to combat Zika in the United States and other countries.
The statement said six of the 10 newly diagnosed people are “asymptomatic” and were found through a door-to-door survey conducted by the Department of Health. It did not say whether all 10 of the people live in the area. Of the 14 locally transmitted cases, two involve women and 12 involve men.
Public health officials have long feared that Zika, which emerged last year in South America, would be spread by mosquitos this summer in Florida and other states. Scott and state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Friday announced a series of steps to try to fight the spread of the disease, including stepped-up efforts to control the mosquito population.
Florida Republican and Democratic leaders have also expressed frustration that Congress has not passed additional funding to help combat Zika. President Barack Obama early this year proposed spending $1.9 billion on Zika, but lawmakers could not agree on a funding package.
In a statement Friday, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., said the announcement of locally transmitted cases was “exactly what the nation’s top disease fighters alerted Congress about for months.”
“It’s critical now that we immediately direct all necessary federal resources to this health crisis to protect the public,” said Buchanan, who supported Obama’s request for funding. ” Millions of Floridians — and Americans at large — are at risk as the hot summer months roll on and mosquitoes continue to spread.”
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida