News Roundup: Health Officials Monitor Zika Virus in S. Florida; New Recommendations for HPV Vaccines & Others

Florida health officials are preparing for the potential spread of the Zika virus in South Florida, with Gov. Rick Scott declaring a public health emergency on Wednesday for the affected counties.

Scott’s declaration covers Miami-Dade, Broward, Lee, Hillsborough and Santa Rosa counties, where cases have been confirmed. Thus far, there has not be a locally transmitted case of Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread rapidly across Latin America and the Caribbean. It poses the greatest threat to pregnant women, causing brain deformities in newborns.

The governor’s order effectively allows the Florida’s agriculture department to focus mosquito spraying in those affected areas. The order also gives the Florida Department of Health the authority to make decisions about what’s needed from the state and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to control a potential outbreak of Zika locally.

As of Thursday, the Florida Health Department has confirmed 12 cases of Zika virus brought to Florida by international travelers, including four in Miami-Dade County. A worldwide warning was issued Feb. 1, by the World Health Organization.

Although there has been no reported Zika case caused by a mosquito bite in the continental United States, health officials in Texas have confirmed a case of the virus transmitted through sexual contact. The CDC has issued new interim guidance on preventing sexual transmission of Zika.

The CDC has issued travel notices for Zika virus for several countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean. More information about the CDC’s notices can be found here.

There is no vaccine or medication available to prevent or treat Zika infections. However, South Florida hospital physicians and obstetricians caring for pregnant women are informing their patients who have travelled about Zika virus risks. The Aedes genus of mosquitoes that transmits Zika also carries dengue and chikungunya viruses throughout the tropics.

“Florida has many years of success in containing other mosquito-borne diseases and emerging health threats,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong in a statement. “Through these experiences, the department remains ready to protect residents and visitors from the Zika virus.”

According to the CDC, the Zika fever illness is generally mild with a rash, fever and joint pain for most adults. But the virus has been linked to thousands of cases of microcephaly – unusually small heads and damaged brains – in newborns in South America. This link between microcephaly and Zika emerged in October after doctors in Brazil noticed a surge in babies with the condition.

Florida health officials are encouraging Florida residents and visitors to protect themselves from all mosquito-borne illnesses by draining standing water; covering their skin with repellent and clothing; covering windows with screens; and other basic precautions.

The Florida Department of Health provides more information on the Zika virus.

CDC Issues New Recommendations for HPV Vaccines & Others

For adults and children, there’s a new list of vaccine recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The updates include new recommendations for meningococcal type B and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines for adults. The new guidelines feature a wide range of changes in immunization guidelines for children, teens and adults.

In the U.S., almost 80 million people – roughly one in four – are infected by HPV,  which is a common virus that can cause cancer. The HPV vaccine provides protection from the virus. Meningococcal type B has been linked to cases of meningitis.

The new recommendations are posted on the CDC website ( and the public is advised to consult with family physicians. The recommendations have been endorsed by several medical groups, including the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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