By Troy MacNeill | firstname.lastname@example.org
The number of Zika virus cases in Florida has risen to 79, the highest of any state in the nation.
There has been only one case reported in St. Johns County so far, according to the Florida Department of Health. Miami-Dade leads the state with 32 cases followed by Broward County with 12, officials reported on April 1.
The only sexually transmitted case reported was confirmed in Polk County.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta advises: “If you have traveled to a country with local transmission of Zika you should abstain from unprotected sex.”
When it comes to prevention, health officials say it is important that all people take precautions and follow the guidelines listed out by the Florida Health Department and the CDC. The Zika virus is an illness caused by a mosquito-borne virus similar to those that cause dengue and West Nile virus infection. The virus is transmitted primarily through bites of an infected mosquito.
According to the CDC, “These mosquitoes typically lay eggs in and near standing water in things like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases. They prefer to bite people, and live indoors and outdoors near people.” It has been noted that these mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters, but they can bite at any time.
The Florida Department of Health is working with the Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County to monitor and control any mosquito outbreaks.
“We’ve done a lot of monitoring and setting up traps to study the mosquito threat in certain areas, such as residential areas,” said Lisa Drake of the education department of Anastasia Mosquito Control. “We work with local agencies to stay informed of all cases of viruses and where they are happening.”
Drake also stated that there is no set budget for the Zika virus.
“There is no specific budget for Zika alone. Instead we are monitoring all potential viruses that are out there, including Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya.”
“Our whole budget is for this basically,” added Scott Hanna, accountant for the district. “The whole budget is for preventing these viruses and protecting the residents of the county.”
According to the CDC, in known cases of likely sexual transmission, the men had Zika symptoms. However, the virus can be transmitted before, during and after symptoms develop. For example, in one case the virus was spread a few days before the symptoms developed.
In the state of Florida, there have been five cases of the virus involving pregnant women. Officials are withholding names of the counties where these women live to protect patient privacy.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced that the CDC has fulfilled his request for an additional 500 antibody test kits given the growing number of cases in the state.
Scott also asked the CDC to schedule a conference call with Florida healthcare workers on how the virus is spread, treatments and proper precautions.
Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organization, told the BBC in an interview that the development of sexual transmission of the virus is “alarming.”
One birth defect that has been linked to Zika is Guillain-Barre Syndrome. GBS is a rare condition that can cause temporary paralysis and possibly death. According to the BBC article, recently, nine countries around the world have seen an increase in GBS.
Dr. Chan told BBC that public health officials should not wait for definitive scientific proof of links between the virus and various health conditions before issuing guidance. The link between the two are very alarming for all women.
The CDC has noted that the virus and unprotected sex are dangerous together because, “the virus is present in seamen longer than in blood.” That is what the center knows. What the CDC does not know in relation to sexually transmitting the virus are the following points listed on the CDC website:
- We do not know how long the virus is present in semen in men who have had Zika.
- We do not know if infected men who never develop symptoms can have Zika virus in their semen.
- We do not know if infected men who never develop symptoms can transmit Zika virus through sex.
- We do not know if a woman can transmit Zika virus to her sex partners.
- We do not know if Zika can be spread through oral sex.
Florida health officials said symptoms associated with the Zika virus could last anywhere between seven to 10 days. Symptoms of the virus include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise and headaches.
These symptoms are usually mild and last for two to seven days, but they are to be taken seriously. According to the World Health Organization, there is no specific treatment. However, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is leading the U.S. government’s research program, a vaccine for the virus could be ready for “human trials later this year,” as he told BBC. Until then, people infected by the virus are to follow the steps put together by the WHO.
“People sick with Zika virus should get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines,” said Sebastian Oliel, communications officer for the WHO Regional Office for America. “If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care, but as of now, there is no specific vaccine available.”
The Florida Department of Health has given Florida health care providers a specific procedure when it comes to handling the virus. The three steps to follow are: identify, test and report.
“First the health care provider should ask the patient about traveling history ask if the patient became ill while traveling or during the two weeks after they returned,” Noreen Williams, public information officer at the Florida Health Department, explained via the Florida Health Department website. “If the patient has any symptoms of Zika, then the health care provider should test the patient. Tests come from the state lab only at this moment.”
After the first confirmed case of Zika was reported in St. Johns County on Feb. 5, Scott released a direct alert through his Executive Order Number 16-29. The alert states that all residents and visitors of St. Johns should protect themselves from all mosquito-borne illnesses by draining standing water; covering their skin with repellent and clothing; covering windows with screens; and other basic precautions.
When the Zika virus first hit Florida, the state’s surgeon general and secretary of health was Dr. John Armstrong.
Armstrong lost his job in March after the Senate refused to consider whether to confirm his appointment and he was replaced by interim Secretary of Health Dr. Celeste Philip.
Before he lost his job, Armstrong was putting out weekly Zika updates. He warned residents or visitors of Florida to drain standing water every week.
“A couple drops of water in a bottle cap can be a breeding location for mosquitoes. Residents and visitors also need to use repellents when enjoying the Florida outdoors,” Armstrong wrote in a Health Department report.
Although all cases of the virus have been travel-related, he said it was still important to drain standing water so that there would be no locally acquired cases of the virus.
Scott asked Philip to activate a Zika Virus Information Hotline. The number is 1-855-622-6735. Health officials are also issuing Zika virus updates at 2 p.m. every day.
See below for a breakdown of the 79 cases reported in Florida so far.
Number of Cases (all travel related)
Palm Beach: 1
Santa Rosa: 1
St. Johns: 1
Cases involving pregnant women in unnamed counties: 5