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Fighting Zika ‘starts at home,’ Kathy Castor says

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Flanked by Hillsborough County public health officials, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said Tuesday that for Floridians “fighting Zika starts at home.”

“Florida is already leading the country when it comes to the number of Zika cases reported since last year,” Castor said, citing the most recent weekly reports by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State of Florida.

“At this point these cases are travel-related, but we want to make sure that our neighbors, especially males and females of child-bearing age, have the tools they need to avoid contracting the virus and to prevent the spread of it throughout Tampa Bay and the State of Florida.”

Castor said people have a higher chance of preventing the mosquito-borne virus if they dump out any standing water that has collected, keep window screens closed, use bug repellant and make sure to cover up with long-sleeve shirts and pants.

The Democratic representative also threw shade at her GOP colleagues in Congress, claiming “Republican inaction leaves us more susceptible to this serious public health emergency.”

Joining Castor in her address were Dr. Jamie Morano of the University of South Florida Division of Infectious Disease and College of Public Health, John Lyons of Hillsborough County Mosquito Control, and Lo Berry of REACH UP and Hillsborough County Healthy Start, an organization focused on reducing the infant mortality rate.

While Morano said researchers are “not quite there yet” when it comes to a vaccine, Berry said her team “will work as foot soldiers” to help expectant mothers avoid the virus, which is known to cause birth defects or even death among infants.

Since it hit Florida shores earlier this year, the Department of Health said 94 cases of Zika have been reported statewide.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

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