Feel Good

What You Need to Know About Zika

The Zika virus has started to spread in Florida.

BY August 2, 2016

The Zika virus has spread in Florida. But let’s not panic. Here’s the latest on the disease as it relates to Southwest Florida.


Where is it?

The latest news has been about cases of the virus contracted in Florida—mostly in the Miami area. Zika had previously been reported in travel-related cases, meaning people had contracted the disease while visiting a foreign country. On Aug. 1, health officials confirmed that 14 people have been infected with Zika while in the United States. This was a significant development because it signals that mosquitoes stateside are carrying the disease. Most of the local cases have been centered around a small area—the Wynwood neighborhood in Miami. But a cluster of local infections has also been identified in Miami Beach. On Aug. 23, the first local case along the Gulfshore was diagnosed near Tampa. The number of local cases has risen to 38 in Florida.

For months, government agencies have been keeping track of travel-related Zika infections. There have been 494 cases of travel-related Zika in Florida, including 12 in Lee and Collier counties, according to the Florida Department of Health.


What is being done?

Gov. Rick Scott on Aug. 1 asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to activate an emergency response team to help state and local agencies investigate and control the mosquito population.

The Lee and Collier mosquito control agencies have already increased their trapping and testing efforts and so far haven’t found any mosquitoes with the virus.

Scott announced Aug. 3 that county health departments will offer free Zika testing to pregnant women.


What should I do?

Federal health officials have suggested pregnant women consider postponing trips to Miami-Dade County, along with a host of other precautions.

Otherwise, people have been asked to help control the mosquito population and to take precautions to avoid being bitten:

—Drain standing water from things like garbage cans, flowerpots, pool covers or coolers.

—Cover yourself with clothing or repellant when outside and avoid keeping windows and doors open while inside.


What is Zika, anyway?

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus similar to dengue or West Nile. Only about 1 in 5 people with Zika report symptoms. It’s like a mild illness, and symptoms include joint pain, low-grade fever, rashes, headaches and vomiting. Zika can cause birth defects but only in about 1 percent of women. 

Mosquitoes largely transmit Zika, but sexual contact can also pass along the virus.

Zika has actually been around for decades, but only following a major outbreak in Brazil did it start to get more serious attention. Health officials say a major outbreak in the United States is unlikely.

For more information, the Florida Department of Health is offering daily updates.


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