Governor Rick Scott has declared a public health emergency in four counties within the state of Florida due to the Zika virus. According to the governor’s office, Scott signed an order Wednesday to cover Miami-Dade, Lee, Hillsborough and Santa Rosa counties.
Scott said the Florida 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.
The first known infection was confirmed by the PAN American Health Organization in Brazil in 2015. The virus was originally known to be transmitted through mosquito bites according to the CDC, but a recent case in Texas confirmed the virus can be sexually transmitted.
Marveetes Brown, fourth-year economics Florida A&M University student from Milwaukee, Wis., was unaware of the specifics but senses the uproar beginning to take place surrounding the virus.
“I don’t really know too much about it, I just know that people are beginning to freak out again similar to the swine flu outbreak,” Brown said. “As far as sex is concerned I feel the same way I do about unprotected sex. You should use protection at all times.”
The most common symptoms of the Zika virus disease are fevers, rashes, joint pains and conjunctivitis. Pregnant women and their fetuses are mainly affected.
Brenda Broger, a nurse practitioner at the Southeastern Center for Infectious Disease in Tallahassee doesn’t believe that residents of Tallahassee are at risk.
“The cases that have been reported most recently were people who have traveled outside of the U.S., it is not a viral epidemic in the US or to the people in Tallahassee,” Broger said.
Broger also agrees with Scott’s decision to issue a public health emergency in select counties.
“From my understanding the people who are most at risk are women who are pregnant or at risk for getting pregnant because the most severe manifestation of the Zika virus is microcephaly for newborns. They are born with underdeveloped brains,” Broger said.
Taylor Harris, fourth-year occupational therapy student from Atlanta, Ga., is worry-free as she looks forward to her spring break trip in Puerto Rico.
“I think it should definitely be taken with precaution, but it isn’t any more serious than something like the West Nile virus that takes on in the U.S. I personally plan to travel to PR soon and I am not worried about catching the Zika virus,” Harris said.
Until more is known, CDC recommends special precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant. They have also issued a travel notice for people traveling to regions and certain countries where the Zika virus transmission is ongoing.
For more information and updates on the Zika Virus please visit www.cdc.gov/zika/