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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Polls suggest concern over Zika, support for genetically modified mosquitoes

Floridians are worried about Zika, polls suggest.

Times file photo

Floridians are worried about Zika, polls suggest.



Two recent polls suggest that concern over the Zika virus has been heightened by the outbreak of the infection in two Miami-Dade communities and locally transmitted cases in Palm Beach and Pinellas counties.

A new Mason-Dixon poll reports that almost 50 percent of Floridians say they are “very” or “somewhat concerned” about catching Zika.

It follows on from a Saint Leo University online poll of 1,500 adults in Florida that found 79 percent of respondents are concerned about the virus, up from 71 percent in a similar poll in June.

Zika can be spread both by mosquitoes and and through sexual intercourse. It has been linked with birth defects including microcephaly. There have been more than 500 cases in Florida, the vast majority the result of travel to countries where the infection is common.

Gov. Rick Scott has made the virus a public health issue with frequent trips to meet with county health officials around Florida including in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas, where a first locally transmitted Zika case was confirmed by state health officials last week.

He is also planning to go to Washington D.C. next month to lobby for more federal funds to fight the spread of the virus.

But Florida residents remain lukewarm about the state’s response to the public health issue with only 35 percent saying it is doing an “excellent” or “good” job and 37 percent rating the response as “fair,” the Mason Dixon poll reports.

Roughly 22 percent of respondents rated the state’s Zika containment efforts as “poor.” The poll contacted 625 registered Florida voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Meanwhile, support for using genetically modified mosquitoes to combat the spread of the Zika virus is higher in Florida than elsewhere in the United States, a new study by the Anneberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found.

About 60 percent of Florida residents approve using GM mosquitoes compared to 50 percent nationwide.

The FDA has approved a GM mosquito trial in Key Haven in the Florida Keys. The nonbiting modified male mosquitoes produce offspring that die before reaching maturity.   

In trails in Brazil, Panama and the Caymen Islands, GM mosquitoes reduced the overall mosquito population by about 90 percent.

Key Haven residents will vote in November on whether to have a pilot GM mosquito program.

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 30, 2016 1:09pm]


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