TALLAHASEE, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Rick Scott has declared a health emergency in four counties due to the Zika virus.
At least nine cases of the mosquito-borne illness have been detected in Florida. Health officials believe all of the cases are from people who contracted the disease while traveling to affected countries.
Scott signed the order Wednesday to cover Miami-Dade, Lee, Hillsborough and Santa Rosa counties. On Tuesday, the health department reported that a second Hillsborough County resident has been diagnosed with the Zika Virus. Also on Tuesday, health officials reported that a person in Texas became infected with the Zika Virus through sex.
The Zika virus is linked to brain deformities in babies and is causing concern among public health officials worldwide. The virus is primarily spread through mosquito bites, but investigators had been exploring the possibility it could be sexually transmitted.
U.S. health officials say a person in Texas became infected with Zika through sex, in the first case of the illness being transmitted within the United States.
“Today I am directing Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong to declare a public health emergency in the four counties that have individuals with the Zika virus. Although Florida’s current nine Zika cases were travel-related, we have to ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the spread of the Zika virus in our state. Our Department of Health will continue to be in constant communication with all county health offices, hospitals and the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We know that we must be prepared for the worst even as we hope for the best,” said Governor Rick Scott in an announcement about the executive order. View the executive order here.
In addition to directing Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong to declare a public health emergency in four counties, the executive order also:
· Directs the Surgeon General to immediately notify the Commissioner of Agriculture of this threat to public health and outlines that statute authorizes the Commissioner of Agriculture to issue a mosquito declaration in Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Lee and Santa Rosa Counties. The Executive Order also says that special attention for mosquito sprays shall be paid to residential areas, as CDC guidance indicates that backpack mosquito spray measures may be most effective.
· Directs the Florida Department of Health to make its own determinations as to further resources and information needed in the State from the CDC to combat the spread of Zika and other measures that may need to be taken to protect public health.