The first case of non-travel related transmission of Zika in Pinellas County was announced by Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday. Four other new cases, Scott said, are in the Wynwood section in Miami-Dade County.
The Department of Health said transmission is likely only taking place within small identified area in Wynwood and Miami beach in Miami-Dade County. Scott said more details will be announced once the Pinellas County investigation is finished.
“We remain fully committed to ensuring that every county has all of the resources they need to combat this virus and stand ready to assist residents and visitors in the impacted communities,” Scott said Tuesday morning.
Here’s all your questions answered about Zika.
♦ What is Zika? How is it spread?
Zika is a virus primarily spread by the Aedes genus of mosquito, which usually bites during the day.
Mosquitoes become infected when they bite a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.
The virus can be spread through sex, from a pregnant woman to her fetus, or potentially via blood transfusion, although this last method has not yet been confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The mosquitoes typically lay eggs in and near standing water in things like buckets, flower pots, trash can lids, animal dishes and in plants such as bromeliads.
♦ What health problems can Zika cause?
Zika can cause severe brain defects in a fetus, a condition known as microcephaly, that results in a baby being born with an unusually small head and a brain that may not be fully developed, along with vision, hearing and growth problems.
CDC research also shows a strong link between Zika and a disease of the nervous system called Guillain-Barré syndrome, but only a small percentage of people with Zika develop GBS.
♦ Who is most at risk?
Pregnant women: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has concluded that if a pregnant woman contracts the Zika virus, she can transfer the virus to her fetus and run the risk of her baby being born with microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected.
Babies born with microcephaly often have smaller brains that may not have developed fully. Babies also can have problems with seizures, feeding, intellectual disability, hearing loss, vision problems and issues with movement and balance.
As of Aug. 11, there were 529 pregnant women in the United States, including the District of Columbia, who had lab evidence of the Zika virus, according to the CDC.
Another 691 pregnant women in U.S. territories, primarily in Puerto Rico, have tested positive for Zika.
♦ How can I get tested for Zika?
A blood or urine test can confirm a diagnosis of Zika.
The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County is providing no-cost Zika testing to pregnant women, Scott said. You can reach the department at (727) 824-6900.
You can also get tested from a private lab, although that can cost between $165 and $500. Contact your health care provider.
The blood samples are sent to a state lab for testing, which can take from one to three weeks for the results.
Pregnant women who have recently visited Wynwood or Miami Beach should get tested immediately. As per the CDC warning, pregnant women who have frequented these areas should be tested in their first and second trimesters.
♦ Should pregnant women travel to areas where Zika has been confirmed?
No. Pregnant women should not travel to any area with Zika. The first case of mosquito-borne Zika locally was just announced in Pinellas County.
Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are other areas in the continental United States where mosquitoes have infected people with Zika. Most of the cases stem from Wynwood.
As of Aug. 23, 42 Zika cases have been reported in Florida.
On Aug. 1, the CDC advised pregnant woman to avoid Wynwood, marking the first time the CDC has warned against travel to any area within the continental United States. On Aug. 19, CDC Director Tom Freiden said pregnant women should avoid South Beach and “consider postponing all non-essential travel to all parts of Miami-Dade County.’’
♦ What are the symptoms of Zika?
Many people who are infected with Zika won’t have symptoms or will have mild symptoms. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, muscle pain and headaches.
Symptoms can last for several days up to a week. Once a person has been infected with Zika, they are likely to be protected from future infections.
People usually don’t get sick enough to go the hospital.
There is no specific medicine for treating Zika. Rest, drink lots of fluids and take Tylenol to reduce fever and pain. Do not take aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs — Advil, Motrin, Aleve — which can cause bleeding.
♦ What about all the antimosquito products?
The Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito is a surburban invader that can breed in a bottlecap of water and requires house-to-house combat.
There are a lot anti-mosquito products, from repellents to clothing to sprinkler systems to misters to lanterns.
♦ So, what do I need to know about the Aedes aegyptai mosquito?
Its life cycle is about 8-10 days long, and females are the biters.
The mosquito loves clean, standing water and will only fly a few hundred feet in its life.
Aedes aegyptai females are attracted to human odor and sweat.
♦ How many people have been affected nationwide?
As of Aug. 17, there were 2,260 reported Zika cases in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, according to the CDC. There were another 8,035 reported Zika cases in U.S. territories, mainly in Puerto Rico.
♦ When did Zika get to South Florida? How many people have it?
The first local cases were reported by the Health Department in late July. Most of the cases have stemmed from people getting bitten by mosquitoes in Wynwood; on Friday, Aug. 19, state health officials announced that five of those cases stemmed from people getting bitten by mosquitoes in South Beach.
♦ How can I prevent sexual transmission of Zika?
If you have traveled to an area with Zika and have symptoms or were diagnosed with Zika, do the following:
If you are pregnant, use condoms every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex.
Couples trying to become pregnant should wait at least eight weeks after possible exposure before having sex. They should also talk to their health care provider to determine their risks.
Men who have a confirmed Zika infection should wait at least six months after symptoms before having sex or use a condom, as the virus can be transmitted sexually.
Women who have a confirmed Zika infection should wait at least eight weeks before having sex, or have their partner use a condom.
The Zika virus can be transmitted through sex, including vaginal, anal, oral sex and the sharing of sex toys.
♦ How long has Zika been around?
It was first identified in Uganda in 1947.
Since May 2015, Brazil has experienced a significant outbreak of Zika cases. Brazilian officials reported an increase in the number of babies born with microcephaly.
The CDC notes previous outbreaks in may have gone unreported because the symptoms can mirror those of other diseases.
♦ What can I do to protect myself and my family?
Take it from the CDC: “The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites.”
Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding should use insect repellent with DEET and Picaridin.
♦ What about that recent aerial spraying in parts of Miami?
An anti-mosquito chemical called naled is now being sprayed from airplanes, mostly at dawn and dusk.
Some insects, like butterflies and bees, can be negatively impacted by naled, so cover your beehives.
Miami-Dade County began spraying the Wynwood area on Wednesday, Aug. 3, and officials said a large number of mosquitoes were killed. In addition to aerial spraying, mosquito control workers are going door to door in Wynwood and Miami Beach, spraying from backpacks and emptying areas of standing water where mosquitoes can breed.
The county is spraying a 10-mile square zone in and around Wynwood.
♦ Can pesticides cause microcephaly?
Read what the CDC has to say on this: “Recent media reports have suggested that a pesticide called pyriproxyfen might be linked with microcephaly. Pyriproxyfen has been approved for the control of disease-carrying mosquitoes by the World Health Organization. Pyriproxyfen is a registered pesticide in Brazil and other countries, it has been used for decades, and it has not been linked with microcephaly. In addition, exposure to pyriproxyfen would not explain recent study results showing the presence of Zika virus in the brains of babies born with microcephaly.’’
♦ Where does this mosquito reside in South Florida?
The Aedes mosquito lives across a large swath of the United States, as shown by this map: tbtim.es/15fs.
♦ Should I panic?
No, just drain and cover any standing water on your property, use insect repellent and wear long-sleeved clothing and long pants.
If residents of Pinellas County have a mosquito issue, call (855) 622-6735.