Travel-related Zika case in Manatee County prompts action

With the first confirmed case of Zika in Manatee County, officials are taking extra precautions to keep residents safe.

“It is important to note the case of Zika in Manatee County is travel-related, meaning the person acquired the virus overseas,” Mara Gambineri, the communications director for the Florida Department of Health, said in an email. “All cases of Zika in Florida are travel related. There has been no local transmission.”

Manatee County has now been added to the “declaration of public health emergency,” which prompts more action and cooperation from local officials, including mosquito control.

Mosquito control has been working closely with the Department of Health to make sure the area around the first confirmed case gets some extra attention, said Mark Latham, director of Manatee County Mosquito Control.

“We’d already been out to where the confirmed case was, but we went back out and did a little bit of extra, just to be extra sure,” Latham said.

Prior to the confirmed case, there were some suspect or possible cases that mosquito control responded to, and the affected area with the confirmed case had been sprayed before it was confirmed. Mosquito control was back out early Friday afternoon, after the case was confirmed.

Typically, mosquito control covers a 300 to 500 foot area near the contaminated area. There are only two types of mosquitos in Manatee County that can carry the disease, and Latham said they aren’t strong fliers. The particular mosquito loves dark, shady areas, Latham said, so mosquito control makes sure to pay close attention.

They also knock on doors and talk to residents, trying to get into backyards and make sure there’s no standing water or other breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Latham said people should continue to take precautionary measures, making sure they are not leaving standing water and protecting themselves from mosquitoes by using repellants.

The CDC recommends testing for any person with two of the four most common symptoms — fever, joint pain, rash and red eyes — and a travel history to a Zika-infected area. The federal agency also recommends testing for all pregnant women with a travel history, or a partner with travel history, to any area where Zika is transmitted by mosquito bites.

The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists and CDC released a new case definition for Zika that now includes reporting asymptomatic and symptomatic cases of Zika. Prior to this change, states reported only symptomatic non-pregnant cases and pregnant cases regardless of symptoms. This change comes as a result of increased availability for testing in commercial laboratories, according to the Florida Department of Health website.

According to CDC, symptoms associated with the Zika virus last between seven to 10 days. The Florida Department of Health issues a Zika virus update each at 2 p.m. each weekday.

On Saturday, after the case in Manatee was confirmed, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, called Washington’s failure to approve Zika funding a “national disgrace.”

“Communities in Manatee County and elsewhere in Florida needed federal resources weeks ago to stop this deadly virus,” he said in a statement. “The health of thousands of lives are now at stake because Congress and the president could not overcome their political differences.”

In June, Buchanan hosted a forum on the Zika virus at University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee with other community partners.

Meghin Delaney: 941-745-7081, @MeghinDelaney

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