With many Florida children returning to school this week, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday announced a new initiative to raise awareness of the Zika virus among students, parents and teachers.
Scott has directed the Florida Department of Health, the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Board of Governors to partner together to produce material on how to prevent the spread of Zika for pre-K, K-12 and higher-education students.
The effort will include posters, palm cards, door hangers and other materials to be displayed throughout campuses and sent home with students.
It also will include some classroom material that will adhere to state education standards and can be incorporated into a science curriculum, said Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.
Schools, colleges and universities will be encouraged to reach out to local health departments so nurses and other staffers get training on prevention and how to recognize Zika cases.
Scott outlined the plan in a conference call Thursday with Florida school superintendents.
"I want you to make sure all our schools and students are protected in our state," he told school leaders.
The move comes as the Florida Department of Health announced three new nontravel-related cases of Zika in the Wynwood neighborhood in Miami, bringing the total number there to 25.
Health officials believe the virus is being actively transmitted only in an area smaller than 1 square mile.
Still, free insect repellent will be sent to schools and colleges throughout Miami-Dade, Broward, Martin, Monroe and Palm Beach as a precaution.
Celeste Phillip, Florida's surgeon general, said the Health Department is now using aerial spraying of insecticide to bolster on-foot efforts to eradicate mosquitoes in the affected parts of Wynwood.
"Aerial spraying is showing to have brought down the mosquito count quite a bit," she said.
The Health Department is also investigating a new nontravel case in Palm Beach County. The patient recently traveled to Miami-Dade County, and it's believed he or she contracted the virus there.
Across Florida, there have been 404 other Zika cases stemming from travel to countries where the virus is widespread.
Contact Christopher O'Donnell at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.