Every year, as wintertime approaches, an estimated 900,000 to one million northerners flock to Florida to escape the cold weather and cloudy skies. But this year, in the midst of the Zika outbreak, many of these “snowbirds” are wondering if the risks associated with travelling to Florida outweigh the plummeting temperatures and drifting snow.
With Congress still gridlocked over the passage of a Zika bill, Florida health officials are left to battle the Zika outbreak with quickly dwindling resources. To date, 50 people in Florida have contracted Zika from Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the insects responsible for spreading the virus. In Miami, where Florida’s Zika outbreak is most prevalent, health officials are having a difficult time advising snowbirds on how to best protect themselves from contracting the virus.
In a recent interview with CBC News, Johanna Mikkola, a Canadian native who recently relocated to Miami, expressed concern over the uncertainty surrounding the side effects of Zika, particularly in pregnant women, as she herself is 35 weeks pregnant. “I barely go outside. I’ve done all my Zika checks. Baby is great. The biggest thing is, I don’t know if we are being overly cautious, or not cautious enough,” she said in her interview.
As news broke of the permeant nerve disorders that can result in otherwise healthy adults infected with Zika, additional, non-pregnant wintertime travelers and Florida locals also expressed concerned over how to best protect themselves from contracting the virus.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Florida’s Zika outbreak is the result of a virus that, despite health officials’ best interests, is still spreading. Just recently, Florida health officials discovered that bromeliad flowers growing in and around Miami Beach trap standing water inside their blossoms, thus providing a perfect breeding ground for Zika-carrying mosquitoes.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging people who live in, or are traveling to, a Zika prone area like Miami to take the following precautions:
• Apply a liberal amount of insect repellent before going outside, even in the day time
• Wear long sleeve shirts and long pants when going outside
• Ensure your home’s windows and doors are securely closed and that all screens are free of rips or tears
• Sleep with a mosquito net around your bed
• Limit the amount of time you spend outdoors or in facilities without adequate protection against mosquitoes
In the midst of Florida’s Zika outbreak, Vista Clinical Diagnostics, a laboratory and diagnostic services provider in Central Florida, is offering “Accurate and proactive [Zika] testing…for $99 with expected same-day results in more than two dozen locations [in Florida.]”
Individuals who believe they may have been bitten by an infected mosquito in Florida can receive the Zika test by walking into any of Vista Clinical’s patient service centers.
While scientists are currently working on a vaccine for Zika, they don’t anticipate it will be ready for widespread public use before the year 2018.