The Florida Department of Health announced today that a grand total of two people in Miami-Dade County and two people in Broward County have contracted the Zika virus from native Florida mosquitoes. This is cause for alarm and for caution, but not, as many folks on the internet are saying, to skip town and avoid Miami for the next decade.
According to the Health Department, "active transmission of the Zika virus is occurring in one small area in Miami-Dade County," within a one-square-mile area inside NW Fifth Avenue to the west, U.S. 1 to the east, NW 38th Street to the north and NW 20th Street to the south. Look familiar?
Yup, Wynwood. It shouldn't really shock anyone that mosquitoes around Wynwood Walls might have the Zika virus — until this point, Zika had been brought to Miami only by tourists. (Yet another reason to ban tourists from everywhere.)
Since the news broke, people across the nation have been freaking out pretty much uncontrollably, but there's really no reason for so much alarm. To remind everyone:
1. Unless you're pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are in a relationship with someone who wants to get pregnant, you are fine.
More than 80 percent of people who contract the Zika virus don't even get symptoms. In the one-in-five chance you actually do get the "worst" of Zika, you'll end up with a fever, some sore joints, and a fairly mild rash for a little while. Here's what happened after a Buzzfeed News correspondent got Zika after a vacation to Mexico:
I asked if I needed to look out for anything. Nope, the CDC guy said. Nothing in particular.
But I’m lucky. I have easy access to a doctor and medical facilities in case this takes a turn. I’m pretty healthy, not pregnant, and not remotely interested in becoming pregnant anywhere in the foreseeable future — and, for that matter, I’ve got access to birth control methods so that I don’t accidentally become pregnant while this thing is in my system, however long that is. All things considered, I have the luxury of shrugging Zika off pretty easily. I was a little more tired than usual, a little achy, but a week into it I’m already feeling loads better. Both my doctor and the CDC told me it’s fine to be around people; as far as my case was concerned, the only way I could transmit the virus was via sex.
Provided you have health care and some sort of access to birth control, you'll be fine, though it is disconcerting to know that scientists still aren't really sure how long Zika stays in your system.
2. Health officials haven't even declared this a "widespread" outbreak yet.
The Department of Health says folks who are pregnant or are within the general sphere of pregnant people should avoid areas of "widespread" outbreak.
"Florida’s small case cluster is not considered widespread transmission," the Health Department said in a statement. If you're pregnant, it's still safe to visit Miami. (For now, at least.) After testing a huge cloud of Wynwood mosquitoes, the Health Department also has yet to find any that have tested positive for the virus.
3. South Florida is very good at fighting mosquito-borne illnesses.
South Florida mosquito-control experts have been fighting tropical illnesses for a long, long time. Remember when everyone was freaking out about chikungunya? Or what about dengue? Sure, Florida does see more outbreaks of tropical illness than most U.S. states, but, on the whole, we're pretty good at containing them.
Zika has become an issue in countries such as
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(Oh, and Zika is not expected to affect most of the continental United States.)
4. So what now?
If you live near standing water, please drain it. For everyone's sake. This includes "a couple drops of water in a bottle cap," which the health department says "can be a breeding location for mosquitoes." Also, wear more bug repellent. And, all of that being said, the virus is quite dangerous if you are pregnant. If you're expecting a baby, get a blood test and some extra ultrasounds ASAP.
Otherwise: Sit tight — you'll be fine.