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Zika Emergency Declaration Expands, Scott Requests CDC's Help

Lottie Watts/WUSF
The Florida Channel
Gov. Rick Scott has declared public health emergencies in five counties over the Zika virus.

Gov. Rick Scott added a fifth Florida county to a public health emergency declaration over the Zika virus on Thursday, and asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for training and other assistance.

Broward joins Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Lee and Santa Rosa counties as where cases of the mosquito-borne illness have been found. All of the cases are travel related.

"I don't think it's scaring people, it's telling people that your state government is going to be prepared,” Soctt said at the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County.

“I think everybody wants to see your government, when there's an issue, to be prepared, and that's what we're doing. We’re getting prepared."

The Zika virus is getting international attention after infecting thousands of people in Central and South America, and particularly because it is suspected of causing birth defects, though that link has not been confirmed. None of the Zika patients in Florida are pregnant women.

Scott said he asked the CDC for more training for Florida's hospital workers, and for at least 1,000 Zika antibody test kits for pregnant women and for new mothers who have shown symptoms of the virus after traveling to affected countries.

Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong joined Scott in Tampa Thursday and said the tests are especially critical for woman who have traveled overseas, and may wonder if they may have contracted the Zika virus.

“What we do is to counsel people that in the interim, it's important that they avoid contact with mosquitoes, to stay indoors.,” he said. “We get the result, and then that sets the path forward for the individual patient."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Lottie Watts is a reporter and producer with WUSF in Tampa. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Lottie Watts covers health and health policy for Health News Florida, now a part of WUSF Public Media. She also produces Florida Matters, WUSF's weekly public affairs show.