TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — For pregnant women in the sunshine state, there’s never been a scarier time to have a baby, amidst a homegrown outbreak of the Zika virus.
Right now, 15 local cases have been reported in what’s being called the “transmission zone,” a popular Miami arts district known as Wynwood. Insecticide trucks can be seen spraying daily. After a hard rain, city workers take large brooms and literally sweep away large pools of water. Moms are scared to go outside. One joked, “Bug spray is our new perfume.”
For those mothers-to-be, the hot, humid days of Florida’s summer months carry with it a constant, stealth enemy – the mosquito. As any pregnant woman will tell you Zika is, indeed, terrifying. The virus carries with it the possibility of infecting a fetus with Microcephaly, an often-fatal condition where the brain stops developing, signified by a drastically smaller head size seen in affected newborns.
Dr. Mary Ashley Cain, an obstetrician from USF Health through Tampa General Hospital explains, “We know what the worst case scenario can be, and so we have to act as if that can happen to anyone.”
While pregnant women are protecting themselves now, those who wish to be pregnant have concerns for the future.
“We don’t know when this condition is going to go away,” added Dr. Cain. “If you’re planning for a baby in the future, even a year from now, this may still be a problem next summer.”
Governor Rick Scott is making a bold move during this public health emergency. He is now mandating that health departments across the state offer free Zika testing to every pregnant woman in Florida. He told WFLA, “Anybody that’s pregnant wants to get a test to see if they have Zika, they’ll be able to do that.”
Some experts fear that the Zika outbreak in Miami cannot be contained and that it’s only a matter of time before it spreads to the Tampa Bay area.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio took time out during the campaign trail to discuss the dangers of Zika.
“When I’m talking to you about Zika today, I’m not talking about something that’s happening halfway around the world. I’m talking about something that’s happening where we live,” he said.
Pregnant women who wish to utilize the opportunities for free Zika testing should contact their local health departments.
OneBlood is now screening all blood donations for Zika. A former Sarasota resident has been diagnosed with the Zika virus. She told News Channel 8 that the virus is painful.
For personal protection, CDC recommends using insect repellents with the following ingredients:
- DEET – Brands like Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, Ultrathon
- Picaridin, also known as KBR 30236, Bayrepel, icaridin – Brands like Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, Autan (Outside US)
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) – Repel
- IR3535 – Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition, SkinSmart
CDC reminds that the higher percentage of the active ingredient, the longer the protection the repellent provides.