CDC Issues Warning in Florida Zika Outbreak

     (CN) – Federal officials warned pregnant women on Monday to avoid traveling to a Zika-stricken part of Miami after the number of confirmed cases in Florida climbed to 14.
     The warning, from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control, also urged expectant mothers who frequent the neighborhood to get tested for the virus, and that men and women who have recently visited the area wait at least eight weeks before trying to conceive a child.
     The warning came after Florida Gov. Rick Scott asked that a federal emergency response team be sent to South Florida to help fight the spread of the Zika virus. The White House on Monday afternoon said a CDC team will shortly be on its way to the area in response to Scott’s request.
     Florida officials said the new cases are clustered in the same square-mile neighborhood north of downtown Miami were four other cases were announced last week. However, it borders three other neighborhoods, including the city’s design district, which are popular with tourists.
     Of the 14 cases, 12 of those infected are men, two are.
     In a statement, the governor sought to tamp down on fears, saying, “Florida has a proven track record of success when it comes to managing similar mosquito-borne viruses.”
     “We will continue to keep our residents and visitors safe utilizing constant surveillance and aggressive strategies, such as increased mosquito spraying, that have allowed our state to fight similar viruses,” Scott said.
     Florida health officials and local mosquito control workers have been inspecting and spraying the area for several weeks.
     They also have been trapping and testing mosquitoes in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties, two populous areas that border the Florida everglades.
     “Today, the Florida Department of Health confirmed that 10 additional people have contracted the Zika virus locally, likely through a mosquito bite,” Scott said Monday morning. “The Department of Health has been testing individuals in three locations in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties for possible local transmissions through mosquito bites.
     “Based on the department’s investigations, two locations have been ruled out for possible local transmissions of the Zika virus. The department believes local transmissions are still only occurring in the same square mile area of Miami,” the governor said.
     Officials announced four cases on Friday, believed to be first people to contract the virus from mosquitoes within the 50 states.
     “Zika is now here,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday.
     Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters traveling with the President Obama to Atlanta on Monday that a CDC team is preparing to head down to Florida in accordance with the governor’s request.
     “The president is continually getting briefed on the situation in South Florida,” Schultz said. “A team is being deployed by the CDC in short order so that we will be able to work with Gov. Scott’s team on the ground in South Florida.”
     Schultz said that CDC has given out $2M in specific Zika response funding and also $27M in emergency preparedness funding much of which can be used for Florida’s Zika response.
     He said the Department of Health and Human Services is also assisting local governments across the country implement Zika prevention and education programs..
     Schultz also criticized the decision by Republican lawmakers in Congress not to fund further Zika prevention efforts.
     He said this has hindered the administration’s ability to fund more research and slowed the development of an anti-Zika vaccine.
     The type of assistants states can expect in the case of an outbreak like that currently occurring in Florida is spelled out in Centers for Disease Control’s Zika response plan, a document released earlier this year.
     According to the plan, an emergency response team is composed of experts in pregnancy, birth defects and arboviruses, as well as authorities on mosquito control.
     Each team will also be deployed with its own communications officer.
     The number of people included and their tasks all depend on the needs of the local jurisdiction, the plan says.
     The CDC has long expected Zika to manifest itself in Florida and the other parts of the Southeast. It’s happened before in the case of such mosquito-borne viruses as dengue fever.
     However, Zika is different from earlier viruses in that it can also be sexually transmitted.
     So far, the CDC is saying it does not expect the kind of widespread local transmission of Zika in the continental United States that has occurred in Brazil and other parts of South America. – Developing story.

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