Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday praised Florida Keys leaders for handling the growing threat of the Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, but he questioned the national response so far.
“The federal government needs to show up and do their part,” Scott said Wednesday during a meeting in Key West with Monroe County officials at the Harvey Government Center, 1200 Truman Ave. in Key West.
Scott, a Republican in his second term, is expecting $5.6 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after having authorized spending $26.2 million in state funds to fight the Zika virus.
State health officials Tuesday reported six new Zika infections, raising the statewide total to 364 people affected this year. None have been reported in Monroe County.
But in the Keys, where millions of visitors go in and out of each year, and particularly Key West, with its cruise ship calendar and military population that includes people traveling to hot spots for Zika, local leaders say they can’t afford to ignore the threat.
“We’re not waiting for a crisis to occur,” Marty Senterfitt, Monroe County’s director of emergency management said after Wednesday’s meeting with Scott.
Scott, accompanied by State Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip, didn’t mention the Keys’ ongoing debate over whether biotech mosquitoes will be released here, something Florida Keys Mosquito Control District Director Michael Doyle would help prevent Zika.
Doyle told Scott genetically modified mosquitoes crafted by insect-control company Oxitec are a tool in the fight against mosquitoes the Keys don’t have. Oxitec says its GM bugs can result in offspring dying you, lessening the chance of Zika dspreading.
Philip said the state will begin begin testing South Florida blood banks either this week or early next week.
While researchers are still learning about Zika, including how it is transmitted, health officials such as Navy Cmdr. Duneley Rochino from the local naval clinic, are grappling with the fact that in 80 percent of cases people infected have no symptoms.
Rochino said the public needs to be reminded that even if someone doesn’t become infected with Zika, he or she could still transmit it to someone else.
“It’s not just about you, it’s about an entire population,” Rochino said.
For those who do suffer symptoms, the list includes fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis.
Awareness is key, Bob Eadie, director of the county’s health department, told Scott. “We can respond to an incident really well,” Eadie said. “This is sort of like an ongoing event. So far, we’ve been lucky.”
For questions about Zika, call the Florida health department hotline at (855) 622-6735.
Also attending Wednesday’s meeting with Scott and Philip were Monroe County Fire Rescue Chief Jim Callahan, Key West ports director Doug Bradshaw, county Director of Airports Don Degraw, epidemiologist Jean Barber and Key West Vice Mayor Clayton Lopez.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/health-care/article91990047.html#storylink=cpy
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen