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As Rainy Season Approaches, South Florida Officials Lay Out Zika Plan

With the rainy season approaching and mosquitoes breeding at this time of year, Gov. Rick Scott and community leaders urged residents to remain aware and take necessary precautions against mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus.

At a community roundtable on Monday at the Department of Health in Miami, the governor stressed the importance of residents’ actions to help prevent Zika-related infections.

“Everybody's  got to  remember to do their own precautions-- no standing water, wear protective clothing, use bug repellant,” said Scott. “If you travel outside the country to an area that has Zika, you know, take precautions for the next three or four weeks.”

So far this year, theFlorida Department of Healthhas reported 18 travel-related Zika cases in Broward and Miami Dade counties. This number includes non-Florida residents who were diagnosed in the state. A total of 525 travel-related cases were reported in 2016 for the same counties.

Part of Monday’s meeting emphasized  the recently launched public awareness campaign called “Fight the Bite.” The campaign’s goal is to advertise preventive measures against Zika.

Another upgrade in this year’s agenda to fight Zika is the $25 million Scott said has been received in grants to help “move the vaccine process along.” No specific date for a vaccine was provided.

In Miami-Dade, Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak, estimates an additional $10 million more than the prior year will be spent to fight Zika in 2017. Last year the county spent $20 million, according to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who was also present at Monday’s meeting.

In an effort to control mosquito activity in certain areas of Miami-Dade, Hudak also explained there are about 130 traps being collected and sent to labs weekly for examination--an enhancement that the county lacked last year. Once the analysis is done, inspectors are sent out to where a high count of vectors are detected to “decide what method of treatment is best.”

Though there are no current active transmission zones in Florida, state Surgeon General Celeste Philip said continuous work is being done to improve testing methods. She expects labs to start seeing improvements by mid-April.

“For any individuals that are tested in our labs, we would be able to offer the full complement of testing, which includes some of the labs that were sent to Colorado previously-- we will have that capability in our state,” Philip explained.

Regardless of the improvements in state labs, Philip said the biggest challenge this year will be to find a “rapid testing method.”

Philip also indicated the Department of Health is looking to improve its outreach to pediatricians and family care providers to have “a referral system in place” for infants and families who would need specialty care.

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