Zika virus impacts on SWFL tourism

Posted at 6:50 PM, Aug 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-08 18:50:39-04

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. -- A new non-travel-related case was announced in Florida Monday afternoon, prompting some to question how safe it is to vacation in Florida.

This case was discovered in Palm Beach County, but according to the Department of Health, the person was recently in Miami-Dade County. With case numbers continuing to climb, some wonder if Zika will reach Southwest Florida. Jamie, who is visiting from Ohio, told Fox 4 she consulted with a doctor before taking a trip to Fort Myers Beach. "She said to watch out for the disease that's going around with mosquitos," she said.

Most who Fox 4 spoke with on the beach, like Mickey from Illinois, said the thought is scary, but not scary enough to keep her away from Florida. "No health services has said you have to avoid the area, then I would've," she said. "But no, I haven't seen anything. Haven't been bit by anything."

As the Department of Health investigates the case out of Palm Beach County, they still believe transmissions are only happening within less than one-square mile in Miami-Dade County.

The Naples Chamber of Commerce tells Fox 4 they've had six calls over the last several weeks from people asking about the virus. The tourism bureau claims Zika hasn't affected tourism in Southwest Florida. "We've had a few less visitors than last year, but overall, the spending is still up from all those visitors," said Jack Wert, Executive Director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Other tourists said as long as Zika mosquitos aren't found in Southwest Florida, they'll keep visiting. "We don't think it's that big of a deal right now, but it might get worse," said one group.

After today's announcement, Governor Rick Scott asked the DOH to partner with the Department of Education to provide Zika prevention guidance to students, parents and teachers across the state as we head into the school year.