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Rick Scott calls Zika “a national issue”

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

In a highly unusual travel warning, health officials advised pregnant women to avoid a part of Miami where mosquitoes are apparently transmitting the Zika virus directly to humans.

At the same time, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said residents and travelers to Miami and the rest of the state were safe.

“We’ve tested a little over 20,000 now, and we don’t have any mosquitoes that have Zika,” he told reporters after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

Health officials last Friday announced that mosquitoes have apparently started spreading Zika on the U.S. mainland, citing four cases they strongly believe were caused by bites. Ten more cases were announced Monday.

Of the 14 people infected, two are women and 12 are men. Eight patients showed symptoms of Zika, which can include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. The others had no symptoms. The disease is often so mild that most people don’t know they are infected.

All 14 cases are thought to have occurred in Miami’s Wynwood arts district, a trendy, fast-gentrifying neighborhood of warehouses, art galleries, restaurants and boutiques.

Scott said he was “disappointed” that the federal government hadn’t “stepped up,” chipping in only $5.6 million to fight the threat, compared with Florida already having spent $26.2 million of its own money.

“This is a national issue,” Scott said. “If we need to do more, we’ll do more. But the president and Congress have to work together.”

Asked about Zika’s effect on tourism, the governor likened it to hurricanes.

“We have hurricanes, so we prepare, and everybody knows we’re prepared,” he said. “And we’ve been preparing (for Zika) since the first time we heard about a travel-related case back in February.

“We’re doing everything we can to make everybody comfortable,” Scott added. “I think we’ll continue to see all the tourists we’ve been seeing.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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