Zika in Texas af­ter Florida cleared

Scott asks Obama to re­im­burse state for preven­tion costs

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Florida’s gov­er­nor has an­nounced that the Zika virus no longer is spread­ing by mos­quito bite in his state, but of­fi­cials in Texas said they have dis­cov­ered four cases near the bor­der with Mex­ico.

Gov. Rick Scott said Fri­day that he had cleared the fi­nal sec­tion of Miami Beach where new cases had been pop­ping up.

“This means that Florida does not have any iden­ti­fied ar­eas with ac­tive Zika trans­mis­sion, which is in­cred­i­ble news for the Miami Beach com­mu­nity and our en­tire state,” Mr. Scott said.

Even as Mr. Scott cel­e­brated the mile­stone, Texas of­fi­cials said they had un­cov­ered four more mos­quito-borne cases near the Mex­i­can bor­der as part of their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a case an­nounced on Nov. 28.

Though mainly a travel-re­lated dis­ease in the U.S., Florida has recorded roughly 250 cases of lo­cally ac­quired Zika, which can lead to grave birth de­fects in in­fants born to in­fected moth­ers.

Of­fi­cials de­tected the first cases of mos­quito-borne Zika in the artsy Wyn­wood sec­tion of Miami in July, prompt­ing the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion to is­sue an un­usual no­tice ad­vis­ing preg­nant women to stay away from a small patch of the con­ti­nen­tal U.S.

Swaths of Miami Beach then started to see trans­mis­sion, rais­ing fears about Zika’s im­pact on tourism, though the gov­er­nor cleared Wyn­wood in Septem­ber and then ze­roed out the beach ar­eas in re­cent weeks.

Florida’s an­nounce­ment is a mile­stone in the U.S. fight this year against the Zika epi­demic, which dev­as­tated Brazil and other Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries and sparked a long-run­ning spend­ing bat­tle on Capi­tol Hill un­til law­mak­ers ap­proved $1.1 bil­lion to fight the dis­ease in Septem­ber.

Fears of lo­cal trans­mis­sion should dis­si­pate soon, as tem­per­a­tures fall and dis­ease-car­ry­ing in­sects die off.

Still, more than 4,300 U.S. res­i­dents have been in­fected with Zika abroad and re­turned to the states or the District of Columbia, ac­cord­ing to the CDC.

Texas is the only state be­sides Florida to re­port mos­quito-borne cases. On Fri­day the state health depart­ment said its four new pa­tients live near the Brownsville woman who re­ported the states’s first lo­cal case in late Novem­ber.

None of the in­fected Tex­ans is preg­nant. “The com­bi­na­tion of mos­quito con­trol and colder weather has de­creased mos­quito ac­tiv­ity in Cameron County and greatly de­creased the prob­a­bil­ity of more wide­spread mos­quito trans­mis­sion of Zika right now,” said Dr. John Heller­st­edt, the state health com­mis­sioner. “How­ever, win­ters are mild in south­ern Texas, and mos­quito pop­u­la­tions can re­bound even dur­ing short pe­ri­ods of warmer weather. When­ever you see mos­quito ac­tiv­ity, pro­tect your­self and your fam­ily from bites.”

Sim­i­larly, Mr. Scott urged Florid­i­ans to stamp out the dis­ease for good, even as mos­quito sea­son wanes.

“While to­day’s an­nounce­ment is great news, we must all re­main vig­i­lant by con­tin­u­ing to dump stand­ing wa­ter and wear bug spray,” he said.

Mr. Scott, a Repub­li­can, also urged the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to pony up Florida’s share of Zika money to help re­im­burse the state for up­front costs in the bat­tle, say­ing he hopes the next ad­min­is­tra­tion works faster.

“While it is dis­ap­point­ing that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has not been a good part­ner in pro­vid­ing re­sources and fund­ing to fight Zika, the state of Florida has been fully com­mit­ted to do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to keep our fam­i­lies and visi­tors safe,” Mr. Scott said. “I look for­ward to hav­ing a new part­ner in the White House who will work with us to com­bat the Zika virus.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has asked the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­im­burse his state for Zika pre­vent ef­forts. There are now cases of the dis­ease in Texas.

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