TAMPA — With Florida still drying out from Tropical Storm Colin, Gov. Rick Scott met here Thursday with local health and mosquito control officials to discuss their efforts to keep the Zika virus at bay.
The whistle-stop visit, which included Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip, comes as Scott is renewing efforts to get more federal funding to help Florida prepare for a potential Zika outbreak.
More than 170 Florida residents have contracted the virus after traveling abroad. But there is concern that the onset of mosquito season will increase the risk of the virus being contracted from insect bites in Florida.
Scott earlier this month sent the White House an extensive list of preparedness items that local health departments and mosquito control boards say they need.
The biggest expense on that list will be to pay for more workers to spray for mosquitoes. More insecticide and mosquito netting are also needed, Scott said.
"Especially when we have an active case, you're going to want to blanket the area," Scott said. "It can't be done by aerial. It has to be done by being there."
Scott is scheduled to discuss those requests with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"What I'm hopeful for is they will tell us how they will be funding our request," Scott said. "The federal government needs to show up and do their part."
Scott's visit to Tampa coincides with another effort by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to boost funding for local mosquito control efforts. Nelson said Thursday he has filed a bill that would provide an additional $130 million per year in grant funding to local mosquito control boards working to eradicate the species of mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus. It would also provide additional funds for public health laboratories for testing.
The Zika virus is transmitted by mosquito bites but can also be sexually transmitted. It has been linked to birth defects. Nationwide, more than 1,700 cases of the virus have been reported.
Florida Department of Health officials have urged Floridians to drain standing water at least weekly to deny mosquitoes a breeding ground. Residents and visitors are also advised to use bug repellents when outdoors.