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Crowd Brings Concerns To Sarasota Zika Forum

There is only one confirmed case of travel-related Zika in Sarasota County, but that didn’t stop a large crowd of people from bringing their concerns to a forum about the virus.

Christine Broomfield was one of several who came with questions for the five-member panel, which included representatives from local hospitals, the health department and mosquito control. The forum was hosted by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Broomfield’s daughter, who lives in Chicago, is planning an October wedding in Sarasota and one of her bridesmaids is pregnant. The bridesmaid's doctor in Illinois advised the woman not to come.

“And my daughter said 'Oh my gosh mom, my friends are in their 20s, all of childbearing age, who knows if they are pregnant, intending to get pregnant, and won't be able to come," Broomfield said.

Speakers at the forum assured Broomfield that so far, no one has acquired Zika from mosquitos in Sarasota County. One travel-related case should not keep other tourists away.

Others who attended the forum were worried about the unknown health effects of Zika. One woman asked whether older adults with neurological problems were more vulnerable to Zika.

And there was Amanda Gilliand of Sarasota, who is pregnant. She said she knows that if she gets the virus, her fetus is at risk of acquiring microcephaly, a condition that results in babies born with small heads. But what about a newborn who gets the virus. Are they at any more risk than an adult?

Dr. Vilma Vega, an infectious disease physician who sat on the panel, said there is a lot doctors don't know about the virus. There are risks, she said.

“If they contract the disease at 1-year of age and not in the uterus -- (a child is) not going to have microcephaly, but they still could have other neurological conditions -- even things that might mimic autism-type symptomatology,” Vega said. 

Julio Ochoa reports for WUSFin Tampa. WUSF is part of Health News Florida, which receives support fromt he Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.