ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Florida's governor says the state likely has the first cases of Zika transmitted by mosquitoes on the U.S. mainland.
Gov. Rick Scott said Friday that no mosquitoes in the state have tested positive for Zika. But he says one woman and three men in Miami-Dade and Broward counties likely contracted the virus through mosquito bites.
More than 1,650 Zika infections have been reported in the U.S., but the four patients in Florida would be the first not linked to travel outside the U.S. mainland.
Scott says health officials believe the infections occurred in a small area just north of downtown Miami.
Zika primarily spreads through bites from tropical mosquitoes. In most people, the virus causes only mild illness, but infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects for the fetus.
“Following today’s news, I directed the Department of Health to immediately begin contracting with commercial pest control companies to increase spraying and mosquito abatement efforts in the impacted area," said Governor Scott.
Governor Scott has directed DOH to activate the Joint Information Center (JIC) within the State Emergency Operations Center to ensure impacted areas have coordinated access to information and resources. As part of this effort, Governor Scott has directed DOH to contract with commercial pest control companies to enhance and expand mosquito mitigation and abatement, including increased spraying, in the impacted areas.
Governor Scott has also directed DOH to do the following response activities:
· Provide $620,000 to OneBlood, the primary blood bank in the area, to establish appropriate blood screening. DOH will be working with FDA and blood establishments in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties to test each individual unit of blood collected. Additionally, statewide DOH will ensure safe blood for pregnant women by screening units from counties without Zika.
· Work with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to issue a Mosquito Declaration and ensure that Mosquito Control in the areas of concern have the resources they need to combat further local transmission. Miami-Dade and Broward County Mosquito Control Districts will receive $1.28 million in state funds through December to combat Zika.
· Continue investigations in concert with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure we learn all we can about Zika as an emerging disease.
· Coordinate with OB/GYNs and organizations that serve pregnant woman in the impacted area to distribute Zika prevention kits to pregnant women.
· Ongoing door-to-door outreach in the areas of concern with continued mosquito mitigation activities and repellant distribution.
· Partner with VISIT FLORIDA to distribute educational items, repellant and Zika Prevention Kits for pregnant women to visitor centers in the impacted areas.
· Partner with the Florida Department of Education to ensure that mosquito breeding source reduction and mitigation activities have occurred at all schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties ahead of children returning to classes this fall.