Tampa Bay health depts. working to make free Zika testing available to pregnant women

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) –  With Florida Governor Rick Scott now mandating free Zika testing for all pregnant women statewide, the Department of Health is trying to catch up with the announcement.

As of Friday, Health Department clinics were still working to gather resources.

According to a statement from the Florida Department of Health, “Governor Scott announced on Wednesday that the department will make testing available at County Health Departments at no cost to any pregnant woman who would like to be tested. This testing option is for all pregnant women who request a test regardless of residence. Guidance to county health departments went out on Wednesday and they are working quickly to operationalize screening and testing for pregnant women. . If you are not pregnant and you meet testing criteria (exhibiting symptoms of Zika and have a history of travel to a zika-affected area), you are tested at no cost.”

“I get bit by mosquitoes all the time,” Angel Danner said. For her, there’s never been a scarier time to be pregnant in Florida.

RELATED: What to know about Zika and pregnancy

There are now 16 non-travel-related Zika cases Florida, all are in Miami-Dade County.

“It makes me very nervous, very paranoid, because of the different birth defects. When I heard it was actually in Florida and it was coming from Florida, I’m like oh my goodness,” Danner said.

At Watson Clinic in Lakeland, some people have been tested. The healthcare facility has also been getting more calls from pregnant women about screening. However, Medical Director Dr. Jorge Gonzalez recommends going through the health department. “Though we could do it, there might be a nominal fee, and if they want it to be completely free, it’s best through the health department.”

RELATED: Zika virus: Separating fact from fiction

News Channel 8 was told many county health departments in the Tampa Bay area hope to have enough resources by Monday.

Free tests are only available at county health departments. In Polk and Pinellas counties they will begin offering testing starting Monday.

In Polk County, testing will be available Monday through Friday, at any of their five health department clinics. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are encouraged.

OneBlood is now screening all blood donations for Zika. A former Sarasota resident has been diagnosed with the Zika virus. She told News Channel 8 that the virus is painful.

For personal protection, the CDC recommends using insect repellents with the following ingredients to keep mosquitoes away:

  • DEET – Brands like Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, Ultrathon
  • Picaridin, also known as KBR 30236, Bayrepel, icaridin – Brands like Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, Autan (Outside US)
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) – Repel
  • IR3535 – Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition, SkinSmart
  • The CDC says the higher percentage of the active ingredient, the longer the protection the repellent provides.

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