TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The number of Florida residents diagnosed with the Zika Virus has grown from 9 to 12, Florida Governor Rick Scott said on Thursday afternoon. One of the additional cases is in Hillsborough County, bringing the total number of Hillsborough cases to three.
Scott and State Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong held a news conference at the Hillsborough County Health Department in Tampa to update Florida citizens about the state’s preparedness efforts.
“My responsibility as governor is to keep people safe,” said Scott.
Scott also announced on Thursday that the number of Florida counties with residents diagnosed with the virus has grown to five. Broward was added to the list of counties. Scott declared a health emergency Wednesday in Miami-Dade, Lee, Hillsborough and Santa Rosa counties.
Governor Scott on Thursday said he is asking Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong to amend the declaration of public health emergency to include Broward County.
Just this week a second person in Hillsborough County was diagnosed with the Zika Virus. All of those diagnosed are believed to have contracted the virus while traveling outside of the U.S., none are pregnant women.
Scott emphasized the need for everyone to be prepared, from residents to agencies. He said the Zika preparation process is similar to that of hurricanes. “We’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”
“We are working with the CDC to get everything we need,” he added. “We are doing everything we can to prepare.”
Armstrong said that the state of Florida will use two types of tests to diagnose the Zika Virus. One test determines if a person has the active virus. The second, an antibody test, determines if a person has had the Zika virus.
Scott has asked the CDC to provide at least 1,000 Zika antibody tests so the state can test individuals, especially pregnant women and new mothers, who have traveled to affected areas and had symptoms of Zika. The antibody test allows the state to see if individuals ever had the Zika virus. Florida currently has the capacity to test only 475 people. Scott also authorized the Department of Health to immediately purchase 4,000 more Zika antibody tests to ensure the state has the resources to quickly respond.
During Thursday’s news conference, Scott also said that the mosquito that carries the Zika Virus is common in Florida. He urged Floridians to avoid contact with mosquitoes by putting screens up, getting rid of standing water and using bug repellent.
Scott is asking Florida’s Department of Agriculture to find out how much funding is available for mosquito control.
He said the preparation process for the Zika Virus is similar to that of hurricanes. “We’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”
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.