Miami is free of locally transmitted Zika virus, governor says

Story highlights

  • Miami, and the state of Florida, are free of locally transmitted cases of Zika
  • The state surgeon general says the Zika risk is not over

(CNN)Miami and the South Beach area have been declared free of locally transmitted Zika virus, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Friday.

This also means the state of Florida has no local transmission.
Locally transmitted cases, in which people were bitten by mosquitoes carrying Zika, began appearing in the area in July.
    Common symptoms of a Zika infection include rash, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and, on occasion red eyes that appear similar to conjunctivitis. The virus can have devastating consequences for a fetus, including the birth defect microcephaly and other neurological deficits. Miscarriage and stillbirth among women who were infected while pregnant, is also a risk.
    "Our state has no local transmission, so we welcome all tourists to come enjoy our weather and our beaches," Scott said. "This state is open for business."
    Dr. Celeste Philip, state surgeon general and secretary of the Florida Department of Health, calls it a milestone but reminded that the risk is not over yet.
    "I want to remind everyone that disruption of local transmission is extremely significant, but we must be vigilant," Philip said. "Miami is popular, and travelers will continue to bring it into our state. So we must remain on alert and continue protective efforts: Use repellant, keep your skin covered as much as possible, and we can't forget about risk associated with sexual transmission."
    Philip referenced the latest guidance on this. If a person or their sexual partner travels to an area where Zika is circulating, they should abstain from sex or carefully use safe sex measures for six months after returning, according to the World Health Organization. The recommendations apply to both men and women and should be followed even if neither of the partners have shown symptoms of Zika -- and regardless of whether they are trying to conceive.
    The WHO updated its guidance in September because of additional studies that have documented the presence of Zika virus in semen for much longer than previously thought.
    All of Miami-Dade County is considered a Zika cautionary area, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and pregnant women are eligible for Zika virus testing.
    "Florida's rapid response and comprehensive mosquito control program has allowed them to interrupt Zika transmission, but we must stay vigilant and also take what we have learned and be prepared for next season," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said. "Pregnant women who live or have been to this area should continue to be evaluated for Zika exposure during their prenatal visits to prevent the devastating effects Zika can cause in their infants."
    Philip said pregnant women can contact their local county health department for Zika testing.
    Although there is no local transmission of Zika in Florida, the virus is still present in the state.
    As of Thursday, there were 11 active investigations underway looking into transmission. There were also eight new travel-related cases reported Thursday.
    "We haven't seen any cases close enough to each other in proximity and time for local transmission, but we will continue to see isolated cases through infections brought in from areas that are impacted," Philip said. "Many isolated cases are not unusual, and we will see more. Our job is to keep monitoring that."
    Overall, the Florida Department of Health has reported 249 locally transmitted cases of the virus.
    Scott addressed how Florida is preparing for the possibility of locally transmitted Zika cases in the spring or summer.
    "I hope the federal government becomes a better partner," Scott said. "I hope they make sure we have Zika prevention kits. Hopefully by next summer, we will have a vaccine from the federal government to prevent it."
    He also noted that of the billion dollars that Congress allotted to fight Zika two months ago, Florida had received $7 million so far.
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    The announcement comes at a time when South Florida is expecting a rush of holiday tourism.
    "It's an outstanding day," Scott said. "I'm excited that South Beach has no local transmission of Zika, and I hope everyone comes here."