TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Worried about another Zika outbreak, members of mosquito-control boards from across Florida came to the Capitol on Wednesday to ask lawmakers for a funding increase. Lawmakers doled out $2.6 million in the current budget for mosquito control and research efforts, but the Florida Mosquito Control Association is asking for a $1.2 million increase next year.
During a news conference, supporters of the funding said the prevalence of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the state last year, paired with a warmer-than-usual winter, likely means this year's potential for another Zika outbreak is high.
Dennis Moore, director of the Pasco County Mosquito Control District, said Florida tourism will take a hit if the state does not get ahead of the problem in 2017.
"We don't know where Zika might end up this year," Moore said. "Last year, it was in the Miami area. This year, we don't know where it is going. We have to be prepared, and we can't sit and wait for it to happen. We can't be reactive to this."
Mosquito experts say the insect that transmits Zika has remained active in many parts of Florida through the winter, at levels typically seen only during the summer.
Florida had 279 locally transmitted cases of Zika last year, in addition to nearly 1,100 “travel related” cases, which involve people getting infected elsewhere and bringing the virus into the state, according to Department of Health numbers.