Authorities say Florida should brace for another Zika outbreak this year. The tip-off, they say, is the state's unseasonably warm winter. And they're looking for another $1.2 million -- a total of $3.8 million -- to fight back.
Mosquitos have remained active in many parts of the state and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which transmit Zika and other dangerous diseases such as yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya, are still present at levels usually seen during summer months and continue to breed.
On top of that, as a tourist destination, Florida also remains susceptible to travel-related cases of Zika, which can lead to locally acquired cases.
“The same risk factors for a Zika outbreak that existed in Florida in 2016 remain today, and we cannot afford to be caught off guard this year,” Andrea Leal, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and co-chair of the Florida Mosquito Control Association’s Legislative Committee, said at a press conference in the Capitol Tuesday morning. “With the state’s residents and vital industries including tourism at risk, increased investment in control measures and research is needed now.”
In 2016, the Florida Department of Health reported 1,093 travel-related cases and 279 locally transmitted cases of Zika in the state. Two hundred and seventy-eight pregnant women were also infected. So far in 2017, 21 travel-related cases, 1 locally transmitted case and 9 cases involving pregnant women have been reported in Florida.
The Florida Mosquito Control Association is in Tallahassee throughout Tuesday to meet with lawmakers during their annual “FMCA Tallahassee Days” legislative event. The Association is requesting that lawmakers allocate $3.8 million for fiscal 2017-2018 to mosquito control efforts and research, an increase of $1.2 million over last year’s budget -- to help protect Florida’s families and tourism industry.
“As elected officials, it is our responsibility to protect the health and well-being of our residents and visitors alike. With the outbreak of Zika we saw in our state last year, it is imperative we continue to remain vigilant,” said Rep. Matt Caldwell, chairman of the House Government Accountability Committee. “Mosquitoes ignore county lines, so we must look at mosquito control as a statewide effort in order to be most effective at reducing this dangerous mosquito population and the risk of Zika.”
Aedes aegypti mosquitos thrive in densely populated urban areas and breed in and around homes, schools and office buildings, resting in cool, shaded places, such as wardrobes, laundry areas, cabinets and under furniture, according to a press statement.
To help reduce the population of this dangerous mosquito, home and business owners should remain vigilant and dump or drain any standing water on a regular basis, including water in potted plants, pet bowls and trash cans. Individuals should wear long sleeves, pants and closed shoes whenever possible, and use mosquito repellent on any exposed skin when outdoors.
“With Zika posing a significant threat to Florida, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that we take the necessary precautions to protect the public,” said Dennis Moore, Director of the Pasco County Mosquito Control District. “We are educating lawmakers on the risks so they fully understand the importance of making the right investments this year to strengthen mosquito control efforts.”