Florida health officials are investigating their first case of homegrown Zika outside of the Miami area, raising the possibility that the virus may have spread to the Gulf Coast side of the state.
Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday that state health officials are investigating their first case of suspected homegrown Zika in Pinellas County, which is located in the Tampa-Clearwater-St. Petersburg area.
Four new cases of homegrown Zika in the Wynwood section of Miami are also being investigated, he added.
A top U.S. health official warned last week that the next area of local transmission could well be the Gulf Coast, which could lead to other states, like Louisiana and Tennessee being affected.
Scott says state health officials “have begun door-to-door outreach and are taking samples there, while initiating mosquito abatement measures.” Pregnant women are also being offered Zika tests, he added.
The confirmation of locally transmitted Zika in Miami Beach cases last Friday prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a travel advisory recommending that pregnant women steer clear of that city, in addition to Wynwood, and as well as Miami-Dade County as a whole.
There was no mention of any new Miami Beach cases in the statement.
Zika is considered particularly dangerous because it is linked with the severe birth defect known as microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with small heads and brain damage.
In adults, it has caused a smaller number of neurological problems, most notably Guillain-Barré syndrome.
In addition to the homegrown Zika cases, Florida state health officials put at 494 the number of travel-related infections reported in the state.
There are also thousands of travel-related cases that have been reported in the continental U.S. and its territories, the CDC says.
The Zika virus can make anyone sick for up to a week with the following flu-like symptoms:
- Joint pain.
- Red eyes.
There is no vaccine or treatment for the virus, making prevention essential. Health experts recommend taking the following precautions:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants outdoors.
- Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes breed.
- Use repellents to keep mosquitoes away.
- Use air conditioning and window screens if possible.
- Call your health care provider if you are at risk of infection.
Last month, Consumer Reports released new rankings of mosquito repellents that offer the best protection against Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, the type that carry the Zika virus. They tested products containing deet, plantlike ingredients lemon eucalyptus and picaridin. The most effective products:
- Sawyer Fisherman's Formula Picaridin.
- Natrapel 8 Hour, with 20 percent picaridin.
- Off! Deepwoods VIII, w/25 percent deet.
- Repel Lemon Eucalyptus.
The magazine also recommended skipping products made with natural plant oils, such as California Baby Natural Bug Blend (a blend of citronella, lemongrass oil, cedar oil, and other ingredients) and EcoSmart Organic, (which includes geraniol, rosemary oil, cinnamon oil, and lemongrass oil).
Women who are pregnant or breast feeding can safely use deet, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535, according to the EPA.
Other tips for using insect repellents safely and effectively:
- Apply repellents sparingly, and only to exposed skin or clothing.
- Don’t apply repellents over cuts, wounds, irritated skin, or after shaving.
- When applying to your face, spray first on your hands, then rub in, avoiding your eyes and mouth.
- Don’t let young children apply repellents themselves
- Don’t use near food, and wash hands after application and before eating.
- At the end of the day, wash treated skin with soap and water, and wash treated clothing in a separate wash before wearing again.
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