FIU Panel Offers Reassurance On Zika
There's no need to panic about zika, experts told concerned South Florida residents at a panel discussion at Florida International University on Wednesday.
Although nine cases of the virus had been confirmed in Florida as of Wednesday morning, all of those cases were contracted outside the United States, said Matthew DeGennaro, an FIU mosquito researcher.
So far, there is no evidence that the virus has spread from mosquitoes to humans or from human to humans in Florida. And overall there's very little evidence of human-to-human transmission, except for one case in Texas that was likely sexually transmitted.
The zika virus causes a rash and flu-like symptoms in healthy adults and children. But experts believe there may be a link between zika and microcephaly, a birth defect that -- among other problems -- can prevent a baby's brain from developing fully.
Experts at the panel said South Florida residents can protect themselves from the virus by doing the things they’d normally do: wear bug repellant containing the chemical DEET, avoid standing water and use air conditioners and window screens.
That was reassuring news for Florida International University graduate student Gretha Burchard. She's studying public administration and has frequent contact with visitors from Latin America. She's also seven months pregnant.
"You get concerned and you want to ask people who know a little bit more," Burchard said. The panelists "managed to calm me down a little bit... They were not too worried about me having some mosquito bites."
Meanwhile, as a precautionary measure, Florida Gov. Rick Scott requested on Wednesday that the state declare zika a public health emergency in four counties: Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Lee and Santa Rosa.
As of Wednesday morning, Miami-Dade County had four confirmed cases of zika, all of which were contracted during travel.