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Five Florida counties under health emergency due to Zika

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida now has 12 confirmed cases of Zika Virus, according to health officials.

Gov. Rick Scott signed an Executive Order declaring a public health emergency in five Florida counties who have patients with the virus. These counties are Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Lee, Santa Rosa and Broward counties.

Health officials say Zika virus causes mild symptoms like fever, rash and fatigue that lasts up to a week, but it has also been linked to birth defects, threatening women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

"We're going to prepare for the worst and hope for the best," Gov. Scott said.

That's exactly what Gov. Rick Scott said he's doing to help contain the virus that's made its way to the Sunshine State.

Only one case in the country has been transferred by sexual intercourse. The cases in Florida were contracted outside of the country.

Gov. Scott said, "In every other case, that we know is by a mosquito, so what we're going to do is we're going to be very focused on how we can prevent this through mosquito control,"

Scott is working closely with the surgeon general, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and the Department of Agriculture for a mosquito declaration.

Scott asked for:

  • The CDC to provide 4,000 Zika test kids for active cases
  • At least 1,000 Zika anti-body test kits to detect if someone has ever had the virus
  • Mosquito sprays in residential areas by the Florida Department of Agriculture

Governor Scott said he asked the Centers for Disease Control to provide at least 1,000 Zika antibody tests so the state can test people, especially pregnant women and new mothers, who have traveled to affected areas and have symptoms of Zika.

The antibody test allows the state to see if they ever had the Zika virus. 

Florida currently has the capacity to test only 475 people.

The governor also asked the CDC to have a conference call within the next two weeks to help train Florida hospital workers, especially OBGYN doctors and those who work with pregnant women, on how Zika is spread, its symptoms, treatments and proper precautions.

“With over 20 million residents and 100 million tourists, we must stay ahead of the possible spread of the Zika virus and take immediate action to ensure Florida is prepared," Governor Scott said Thursday.

Governor Scott is also asking the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to evaluate how much funding they have available for mosquito control.

The Department has been appropriated $1.6 million in the last year for mosquito control and Governor Scott is requesting to know how much is still available.

Some airlines are also taking action, allowing employees to opt out of traveling to countries affected by the Zika Virus.

Travelers at the Jacksonville International Airport said they're not too concerned about traveling within the U.S., but said some policies should be put into place to avoid the spread of the virus.

"It's a big concern," said Suzanne Batchelor, a passenger headed to Tampa. "Every person should have a choice for their own concern and safety."

Delta Airlines has been giving flight attendants and pilots the option of opting out of working flights to affected countries.

United Airlines is also following suit for pregnant flight attendants. Many airlines have been offering refunds to customers who have booked flights to affected countries.

"I think anytime there should be policies and procedures in place in order to help stop the spread of disease - what exactly, I couldn't say," Bonnie Rogers, a traveler said.

Some travelers said they are avoiding trips outside of the country. Others said the problem lies here at home where the mosquito that causes the Zika virus lives.

"I think it's going to be difficult to keep the mosquitoes out of here," another passenger, Terrance Rogers said.

The CDC has also issued a travel alert for pregnant women to postpone travel to 29 countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America.

Right now there's no vaccine - but there are also safety measures health officials want you to follow to avoid getting the Zika virus:

  • Use insect repellent during outside activities
  • Drain standing water around homes to keep the mosquitoes away
  • Cover doors and windows with screens

Health officials also recommend people avoid traveling to the countries affected by the virus.