Florida Governor, Rick Scott, announced Friday that the last Zika zone in Florida was free of infections. Four zones had been identified in the Miami Area where the virus was spreading. However, even though there are no more local transmissions, authorities warned that tourists could bring the disease to the state.

In July, the spread of Zika arrive in Florida, being  the first Zika transmissions registered in the continental U.S. The local government identified zones of transmissions, and one by one the zones were deemed clear. On Friday the last one, located in South Beach was clear of the virus. It has a lot to do with the chilly winter season which helped to suppress the disease-carrying mosquitoes, according to Florida Health Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip.

Florida is now a Zika-free zone. Photo credit: ABC News
Florida is now a Zika-free zone. Photo credit: ABC News

Zika alert lifted in Florida

Florida Governor Rick Scott declared that the crisis of Zika was over in a welcoming declaration before the peak tourist months. The announcement was made in Miami Beach on Friday. The last zone declared free of infection was a 1.5 square mile area in South Beach.

“Hopefully, by next summer, we’ll have a federal government that has a vaccine,” said Scott, a Republican who has repeatedly criticized federal officials for an impasse over Zika funding.

In Florida, there were around 250 people infected by Zika. As well, there have been around 980 other Zika cases in the state linked to travelers. Zika causes flu-like symptoms most of the time. But it does have complications such as brain-related congenital disabilities when pregnant women are infected. There had been 187 cases of pregnant women with Zika, 95 percent of these women has asked for treatment at the University of Miami Health System and Jackson Memorial Hospital.

On the matter, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also lifted the warning for pregnant women to stay out of the South Beach zone. However, they still recommended pregnant women to avoid preventable travels to Miami-Dade County. Moreover, the CDC recommended women and their partners to have a Zika test if they have been in Miami-Dade County since August.

Florida resident should be careful about future Zika outbreaks

However, the health authorities did say that people need to be careful since travelers could continue to arrive in Florida carrying the virus, which could be transmitted easily through sexual contact. Celeste Philip also noted that the Zika could be controlled in part due to the beginning of South Florida’s chilly winter, which lead to a reduction of the mosquitoes that carry the disease.

But though it seems to be over, local authorities continue to recommend residents to take the appropriate measures to control mosquitoes. Miami-Dade County Mayor, Carlos Gimenez, met with the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish a plan of action in case of future Zika outbreaks in 2017.

Miami-Dade County is ready then to prepare for the next Zika cycle, since its climate – a tropical one – and a lot of visitors received from Brazil, Colombia, and other countries ease the spread of the infection.

“The virus is endemic; it’s here now,” said Chalmers Vasquez, Miami-Dade County’s mosquito control manager. “But we have a good picture of what we are dealing with the next mosquito outbreak.”

The lift of the Zika crisis in Florida also means a relief for Florida’s tourism industry, which panicked as the mosquitoes began to spread the virus all over Miami a few months ago. Tourism officials seemed happy during the announcement made by Florida Governor, though in reality, Florida saw a new record in the number of tourists during 2016.

Zika continues in the U.S: 4 new locally transmitted cases in Texas

While Florida announced it is a Zika Free state on Friday, the Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed four new cases of Zika in the Cameron County, near the border with Mexico. The new cases were locally transmitted, all of them were detected very close to the first case, which was due to a mosquito bite on November 28, making a total of five the people affected in the mentioned County.

None of the patients is pregnant. As well, none of them have traveled to Mexico or any other country where they might have contracted the virus. All of the patients reported showing symptoms of Zika between November 29 and December 1. Therefore, there were infected before the attempts of the local government to control the mosquitoes in the border with Mexico, after they found out about the first case.

The authorities in Texas have recommended people not to travel to Mexico – where an important amount of Zika cases have been confirmed – if it is not necessary, especially regarding pregnant women. As well, they recommended not to have unprotected sex.

Until 7 December, a total number of 4575 people has been infected with the Zika virus all over the United States. Most of them had traveled to a risk area, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Source: CBS Miami