Florida governor: Local Zika cases rise to 30

Florida governor: Local Zika cases rise to 30
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Florida health officials are stepping up their fight against the Zika virus as the number of locally transmitted cases rises to 30, doubling the caseload from 11 days ago.

Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced Monday that the health department is rushing to send more staff and mosquito traps to Miami-Dade County, where 30 people have now contracted the virus from mosquito bites. Two of those cases were confirmed on Monday.

Scott said the state is sending in more commercial pest control companies “to ensure the county has every possible tool to fight Zika.” Officials in Miami-Dade County had requested the extra help on Friday as their caseload continues to climb.

The first known mosquito-spread cases of Zika were reported in Florida on July 29, and they climbed to 15 people by Aug. 4.

Public health experts say the number of cases are likely underreported because most people infected with the disease don't know they have symptoms. Pregnant women across the U.S. are encouraged to get tested, however, because the disease can cause severe birth defects. 

Shortly after the first cases were reported in Florida, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged that traps and pesticides were working less effectively than hoped, signaling that efforts would need to be intensified. The CDC also issued an unprecedented travel warning to prevent pregnant women from traveling to the Zika-affected area in Florida.

At the same time, a funding fight is threatening to break out between the governor’s office and the county most affected by Zika.

Carlos Gimenez, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, said he has spent about $6 million on Zika-related mosquito spraying and educational outreach, but has only received about $300,000 from the state, according to the Miami Herald.

Scott has set aside about $26 million available to fight Zika out of the state’s general reserve fund. The Obama administration has sent about $9 million in Zika-specific grants and another $27 million in emergency response money that can be used for Zika.

Florida has spent nearly $18 million out of the state reserve fund and $7 million from the White House money. That includes $5 million to help test pregnant women and another $5 million to boost staffing, according to The Herald.

So far, mosquitoes carrying Zika have only been confirmed in one small part of Miami, about one-square mile north of the city. But health officials are currently investigating three other areas in Miami-Dade and one in Palm Beach Counties where the virus may also be spreading.

Scott said Monday the Department of Health “still believes active transmissions are still only occurring in the area that is less than one square mile” in a Miami neighborhood called Wynwood.