Governor Rick Scott declared a public health emergency in four counties on Wednesday after at least nine cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus were detected in Florida.
Health officials say that they believe all of the cases are from people who contracted the disease while traveling to affected countries.
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“We have to ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the spread of the Zika virus in our state,” Scott said in a statement. “We know that we must be prepared for the worst even as we hope for the best.”
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Scott signed the order to cover Miami-Dade, Lee, Hillsborough and Santa Rosa counties where all of the affected cases were detected.
The Washington Post reports: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been reassuring Americans for days now that none of the cases seen so far have been due to mosquitoes that have made their way to the United States and that therefore Zika is not a major threat to public, yet. Scott appeared to acknowledge this in his executive order, but he also said that he was taking this action to “ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the spread of Zika virus in our state.”
Scott’s directive gives the Health Department additional power in coordinating a response to Zika and directs the state’s environmental unit to cooperate with the Agricultural Department in coming with a mosquito control plan.
Also Wednesday, the CDC added two more countries, Jamaica and Tonga, to its list of countries that pregnant women should avoid. The full list, which can be found here, now includes the lower half of the Americas.
Meanwhile, GM mosquitoes which may have a link to the zika virus are still waiting for approval to be released in Florida.
British Biotech company Oxitec has been planning to release thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes into the fragile environment of the Florida Keys.
The program has been presented to the public under the guise of eradicating Dengue fever, but is still waiting for approval from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) despite widespread opposition from the public.