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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott expands public health emergency, confirms 12 Zika virus cases in Florida



After the number of confirmed cases of Zika virus in Florida grew to 12, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday expanded a public health emergency in the state to include Broward County.

Speaking in Tampa alongside Dr. John Armstrong, the state’s surgeon general, Scott urged Floridians to be prepared, “just like a hurricane.” He is asking the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide at least 1,000 kits to test pregnant women who show symptoms of the virus.

“It’s no different than what I do in hurricanes. You always try to get out in front of something, try to prevent the problem but know if you’re going to have a problem you’d rather be prepared.”

All 12 of the confirmed cases in Florida are travel-related, and there have been no known transmissions within the state, either from mosquitos or between people. None of the people who have been infected are pregnant women, according to Scott’s office. Reports have connected Zika to a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly, although according to the CDC, “knowledge of the evolving.”

On Wednesday, Scott signed an executive order declaring the public health emergency in Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Santa Rosa and Lee counties.

The governor’s action is reminiscent of his response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa, but he has not declared public health emergencies for outbreaks of other illnesses, including other mosquito-borne diseases.

“With regard to Ebola, we got ahead of it,” Scott said. “We put a lot of effort into making sure everyone was informed in our state in case something happened.”

[Last modified: Thursday, February 4, 2016 5:59pm]


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