Thursday, February 4, 2016

Florida Governor Rick Scott Declares Zika Virus A Health Emergency


TALLAHASSEE – Florida Governor Rick Scott signed an Executive Order on Wednesday which directs Florida State Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong to declare a public health emergency in the four counties which have the Zika virus.  There are currently a total of nine travel-associated cases (defined as disease believed to be contracted outside of the state) of the Zika virus across Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Lee and Santa Rosa Counties. 

Today I am directing Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong to declare a public health emergency in the four counties that have individuals with the Zika virus," Governor Rick Scott said. "Although Florida’s current nine Zika cases were travel-related, we have to ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the spread of the Zika virus in our state.  Our Department of Health will continue to be in constant communication with all county health offices, hospitals and the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  We know that we must be prepared for the worst even as we hope for the best.”


1. In addition to directing Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong to declare a public health emergency in four counties, the executive order also:

2. Directs the Surgeon General to immediately notify the Commissioner of Agriculture of this threat to public health and outlines that statute authorizes the Commissioner of Agriculture to issue a mosquito declaration in Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Lee and Santa Rosa Counties. 

3. The Executive Order also says that special attention for mosquito sprays shall be paid to residential areas, as CDC guidance indicates that backpack mosquito spray measures may be most effective.

4. Directs the Florida Department of Health to make its own determinations as to further resources and information needed in the State from the CDC to combat the spread of Zika and other measures that may need to be taken to protect public health.

Zika is spread by bites from two mosquito species: Aedes aegypti (primarily) and Aedes albopictus, both found in Florida. Although local transmissions have not occurred in the Sunshine State, local transmissions are possible if a Zika infected visitor or returning traveler is bitten by Florida mosquitoes that then spread the virus to other people they bite.  In addition to the Zika virus, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can also transmit dengue feverChikungunya virusWest Nile virus, and Yellow Fever.

According to the CDC, babies born with the Zika virus transmitted from their mothers who contracted the disease while pregnant have developed microcephaly - a disease which causes the babies' brains and heads to shrink. Maternal-fetal transmission of Zika virus has been documented throughout pregnancy and pregnant women can be infected with Zika virus in any trimester.