Florida Declares Zika Emergency

9 cases have been reported in 4 counties
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2016 4:03 AM CST
Updated Feb 4, 2016 6:37 AM CST
A city worker in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, fumigates a public school.   (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)

(Newser) – The Zika virus is now officially a public health emergency in Florida, where at least nine cases have been detected in four counties. Gov. Rick Scott signed the emergency order on Wednesday to cover Miami-Dade, Lee, Hillsborough, and Santa Rosa counties, WESH reports. State health officials say all nine cases involve Florida residents who were bitten by mosquitoes in Caribbean or Latin American countries before returning to the state, reports the Miami Herald. Officials say Haiti and Venezuela are involved in three cases each, two cases were contracted in Colombia, and one originated in El Salvador. On Monday, the World Health Organization called the spread of Zika in the Americas an international emergency.

The virus has been linked to the birth of babies with abnormally small heads in Brazil, but health officials from the US and the United Nations say they aren't getting enough information from Brazil to examine the link or track the outbreak, the AP reports. Brazilian law bans the sharing of genetic material like blood samples, and researchers in other countries say they are having to use private samples. "It's almost impossible to get samples from the country," says an expert at Germany's Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine. "It's not going via official government channels. Our source is simply the rich people who want a diagnosis." (Health officials in Texas say they're dealing with a sexually transmitted Zika case.)

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