Governor Scott Declares Zika Emergency in Miami-Dade and Three Other Counties

A public health emergency has been declared in Miami-Dade County after a case of Zika was detected here. Lee, Hillsborough, and Santa Rosa counties are also affected by the warning. 

"We have to ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the spread of the Zika virus in our state," Gov. Rick Scott said in a news release. 

Four cases of the mosquito-borne disease have been detected in Miami-Dade, and another five have popped up elsewhere in the state. All patients had recently traveled to Latin America and the Caribbean. 

So what exactly does a public health emergency mean? It allows the state’s agriculture department to spray more heavily in the affected counties. It also gives the Florida Department of Health more autonomy to prepare and ask for help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

If contracted, Zika is a relatively mild disease. Only about one in five people have symptoms. Those who do usually develop a fever, a rash, and some pain. The symptoms mostly subside within a week. We're not talking Ebola levels of threat here, but because until recently the disease was relatively rare, there's a lot science doesn't know about it yet, including how it could affect unborn children. 

A recent outbreak of the virus in the Caribbean and Latin America has coincided with a wave of birth defects in Brazil; however, a definitive link hasn't been established. 

People are usually infected through mosquito bites, but the disease can be sexually transmitted as well. 

"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)," Scott said. "We know that we must be prepared for the worst even as we hope for the best.”  
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kyle Munzenrieder