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Florida, other states in U.S. scramble to take on Zika
August 7, 2016
The number of Zika cases in the United States is on the rise. Last week, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. hit 1,800. Most people in the U.S. with the illness contracted it from travel to heavily Zika-infected countries.
But that is starting to change now that at least 16 people in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami reportedly have been infected with Zika by local mosquitoes, Fox News reported. Consequently, the Miami neighborhood has been dubbed the "Zika zone" by some. Officials in Florida say the zone in Miami-Dade County is safe, but government officials are recommending that pregnant women not travel to the area, CBS News reports.
Zika is spread through mosquito bites and sexual contact. The disease can be asymptomatic or only cause minor symptoms such as mild fever and rash, according to CBS News. It is of particular concern for pregnant women as it has been shown to cause birth defects such as microcephaly, a condition where a baby's head is much smaller than expected. Babies with microcephaly can suffer from seizures, hearing and vision problems, developmental delays and decreased intellectual ability.
Florida has asked for and received some federal funding to combat Zika, the Guardian reports. The state has been educating its residents about the threat of the illness and taking proactive steps to monitor and control the mosquito population. The state also recently received approval to release a strain of genetically modified mosquitoes that will mate with and destroy mosquitoes that can carry Zika. Florida governor Rick Scott said that “what we’re doing is working,” according to the Guardian.
In light of the reality of Zika in Florida, according to CNN, other states where Zika is a possibility are ramping up their efforts to combat the disease.
Laredo, Texas, is home to the types of mosquitoes that can carry Zika, CNN reports. In the city that borders Mexico, officials are encouraging residents to use insect repellent and remove conditions in which mosquitoes thrive, such as standing water, from their property. Officials are also spraying insecticide that kills mosquito eggs and introducing fish such as minnows that eat mosquito eggs to local waterways.
Houston has upped shifts for garbage workers to impoverished neighborhoods to rein in illegal dumping, according to CNN. Discarded building materials can be mosquito breeding grounds. The city has also turned to messaging to put the threat of Zika into the forefront of people’s minds. The city has settled on the acronymn 3D. This 3D doesn’t refer to printing or images but rather "DEET, dress, drain" as the city wants its residents to remember to use insecticide, wear long-sleeved clothing and remove standing water.
In coastal cities in Georgia, officials are warning people to remove standing water from their yards, keep gutters cleaned and maintain their yards, according to CNN. Health officials in the area are also recommending the use of larvacides and repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, IR3535 and oil of lemon or eucalyptus. They are also telling residents to wear long sleeves, long pants and socks at a minimum.
Los Angeles County is concerned about the threat of Zika even though it is considered "a relatively low-likelihood event, but it's a high-consequence event," CNN reports. To mitigate the threat, the county expanded its lab capabilities to ensure faster results in suspected Zika cases. The county’s main tactic is education. It is trying to get residents to apply insect repellent as habitually as they do sunscreen. Officials in San Diego are taking a similar approach, "working to educate the public, the medical community and our community partners about Zika, and ways to prevent contracting it," San Diego County spokesman Michael Workman explains in CNN's report.
According to the CDC, New York is the state with most Zika cases. These cases were acquired through travel to infested countries, but that hasn’t stopped officials in New York City from being proactive, according to CNN. In the boroughs of New York City, health officials have been handing out literature about Zika and posting public services messages on public transportation and local media. The city is also creating jobs specifically aimed at fighting the mosquitoes that can carry Zika. New York City is also targeting areas with standing water and using pesticides to kill mosquito eggs.
In New Orleans, CNN reports that the city is relying on its Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board to mitigate the Zika threat. The board plans to tackle the threat of Zika through mosquito surveillance, education, elimination of breeding sites and pesticides. The board will also introduce mosquitofish and crustaceans called codepods into waterways to eat mosquito larvae.
CNN says in South Carolina, officials are encouraging counties without a mosquito program to adopt one. They are also recommending that counties work on educating the public about how to prevent Zika at home and health care providers on what to do if they think a patient has contracted the illness.