Gov. Rick Scott declares health emergency in 4 counties due to Zika virus

9 mosquito-borne illness cases reported in Florida

TAMPA, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott has declared a health emergency in four counties due to the Zika virus.

At least nine cases of the mosquito-borne illness have been detected in Florida. Health officials believe all of the cases are from people who contracted the disease while traveling to affected countries.

Scott signed the order Wednesday to cover Miami-Dade, Lee, Hillsborough and Santa Rosa counties.

"Today I am directing Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong to declare a public health emergency in the four counties that have individuals with the Zika virus," Scott said in a statement Wednesday. "Although Florida's current nine Zika cases were travel-related, we have to ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the spread of the Zika virus in our state. Our Department of Health will continue to be in constant communication with all county health offices, hospitals and the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  We know that we must be prepared for the worst even as we hope for the best."

In addition to directing Armstrong to declare a public health emergency in four counties, the executive order also directs Armstrong to notify the commissioner of agriculture, so the commissioner can issue a mosquito declaration in the four counties.

The order specifies that special attention for mosquito sprays will be in residential areas.

It also directs the Florida Department of Health to determine further resources and information needed in the state from the CDC to combat the spread of the Zika virus.

The Zika virus is linked to brain deformities in babies and is causing concern among public health officials worldwide. The virus is primarily spread through mosquito bites, but investigators had been exploring the possibility it could be sexually transmitted.

U.S. health officials say a person in Texas became infected with Zika through sex, in the first case of the illness being transmitted within the United States.

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