Zika fever is a mild febrile illness caused by a mosquito-borne virus similar to those that cause dengue and West Nile virus infection.
Zika has been linked to serious birth defects, including microcephaly, when contracted by expectant mothers during pregnancy. Microcephaly is a condition in which a baby’s head is significantly smaller than expected, often because their brains have not developed properly.
Zika virus has been identified in several countries in Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean since 2015. Outbreaks have previously been reported in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Local transmission has been reported in Puerto Rico and Florida. Cases of Zika fever have been reported in travelers returning to the United States.
What is DOH and CDC doing?
In early 2016, after identifying the first travel-related cases of Zika in Florida, the department established an incident management team (IMT) to prepare and respond to the threat of Zika. The IMT remains active.
Through the IMT, the department managed the disposition of supplemental funds to mosquito control districts, public health laboratories and other entities, such as private labs, to aid in combating Zika.
The DOH IMT has organized several meetings and conference calls to keep stakeholders at all levels engaged and informed, such as, health care providers, school superintendents, tourism councils, business councils, local governments, and much more.
While states awaited Federal funding in 2016, Governor Rick Scott used his executive authority to invest $62 million to prepare and protect Florida’s residents and guests. Under the direction of Governor Scott, the department distributed $25 million in competitive grants for research for better diagnostics, vaccine studies, and to expand knowledge on the short and long term impacts of Zika.
Each suspected case of Zika virus infection is tested at the state public health laboratory. County health department staff report suspect Zika fever cases to local mosquito control staff to make sure mosquito control activities are put in place.
There are currently no areas of ongoing, active transmission of Zika by mosquitoes in Florida, but the department continues to closely monitor the status of Zika in Florida and take action to keep Floridians, especially pregnant women, safe. If the department identifies any areas of concern, the public and the media will be notified.