Zika in Texas after Florida cleared
Scott asks Obama to reimburse state for prevention costs
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.”
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.