MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Summer is in full swing and Governor Rick Scott is hoping to avoid a repeat of last year when combatting the Zika virus dominated the headlines.
On Monday, Gov. Scott gave the opening remarks at the Florida Department of Health’s Zika Preparedness Planning Meeting in Miami.
The health department is hosting the meeting with county health departments and mosquito control districts from across the state, as well as officials from the Centers for Disease Control, to discuss ongoing efforts to prepare for and combat the Zika Virus.
As the summer rains have begun to fall, both Miami-Dade and Broward counties have mounted their spraying campaigns using trucks and planes. The sprays being used target both adult mosquitoes which can carry the virus and the larvae which have yet to hatch.
The discussions will also focus on public education campaigns to remind people to use bug spray, drain standing water, and take other precautionary measures.
“Wear repellent, be aware of where you are traveling, if Zika continues to be seen in those places. When you come back take precautions, continue to use repellent and if you have a partner who is pregnant, or who wants to become pregnant, take sexual precautions,” said Florida Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip.
Experts are also using this Zika preparedness planning meeting to learn from other counties and share what they have been doing in Miami-Dade, for instance, they now have a strategic treatment.
“We’ve learned that the mosquito that carries diseases are everywhere in Miami County. So we have a very extensive surveillance in terms of our community, we are able to check on a weekly basis, and taht allows the ability to target and make sure our resources are strategically located,” said Miami-Dade Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak.
Last year, state and county officials were forced to ramp up efforts quite quickly when cases of the locally acquired Zika were found in several ‘hot zones’ in Miami-Dade. Wynwood businesses, which were in one of the zones, lost as much as 40 percent in revenue from last year’s outbreak, according to a study by Florida International University
So far this year, Florida health officials have confirmed only 32 travel-related Zika cases in Miami-Dade County and no locally acquired infections. There are, however, six locally acquired cases from 2016 which were not discovered until testing in 2017.
Statewide, health officials have confirmed 81 travel cases so far this year.
Scott said although the number of Zika cases are down, we cannot let our guard down.
“We want to continue the success of last year but remain proactive and vigilant,” said Philip.
While Zika may not seem as much as a threat as last summer, officials are warning pregnant women, and women who want to get pregnant, not to let their guard down.
“Zika hasn’t gone away,” said CDC acting director Dr. Anne Schuchat. “We can’t afford to be complacent.”
While cases of the birth defect-causing virus have dropped sharply from last year’s peak in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, Zika hasn’t disappeared from the region and remains a potential threat.
It’s hard to predict how much risk people face in locales with smoldering infection, or if cases might spike again. For now, pregnant women still are being urged not to travel to a country or area with even a few reported cases of Zika, because the consequences can be disastrous for a fetus’ brain.