Protecting against & preparing for locally-transmitted Zika in the Bay Area

- We're learning the number of Zika cases contracted here in Florida has more than tripled from 4 to 14.

All of them, so far, are confined to a small area north of Miami.

So far, we already have more than three dozen Zika cases here in the Bay Area, all of them travel-related.

That's how local health and mosquito control officials would like it to stay. But, they're preparing for any scenario.

"We've been planning for quite some time on the possibility that Zika could be locally transmitted," said Ron Montgomery, Operations Manager with Hillsborough County Mosquito Control. "Part of that strategy is to map out areas of the county where Aedes aegypti is abundant."

There are more than 55 species of mosquitoes in Hillsborough County. Reaching for your bug spray yet?

Luckily, only 2 are concerning when it comes to Zika virus.

The good news is, so far, all mosquitoes trapped here have tested negative.

But, if and when mosquito control gets word of a local transmission, they have teams ready to react.

"Our first and foremost plan would be to get into that area by ground, access property, and remove any kind of container that would possibly breed any mosquitoes," Montgomery said. "If we had populations of adult Aedes aegypti, we would simply use handheld sprayers and treat that in a way that we do now. The only difference is, we would do it during the day instead of at night."

That's what's happening right now in Miami-Dade County.

A one square mile area in Wynwood is the site of 14 confirmed Zika cases transmitted here in Florida.

"We are going to be aggressive to make sure it doesn't spread. But, we are going to keep everyone informed," said Governor Rick Scott at a roundtable discussion Monday in Pinellas County.

Dr. Ulyee Choe, the Florida Department of Health Director in Pinellas County, explained there are many factors at play when the virus is spread from infected person, to mosquito, to person.

"The person infected needs to have a high level of virus in their body," Choe said. "They need to have the right type of mosquito species, the Aedes aegypti, around that vicinity. And then, the next person that would get infected would have to be within a short flight radius. The Aedes aegypti does have a short flight radius."

Once that locally-transmitted case is confirmed, officers with the Florida Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would go door-to-door, testing those within a 150-meter radius.

Only about 1 in 5 people infected show symptoms like fever, rash and joint pain.

"When they are showing symptoms, we do advise them to stay indoors," Choe said.

Insect repellent is always a smart idea to avoid bites.

But, according to Montgomery, the best thing you can do now is eliminate the source of breeding.

Check your yard.

Look for anything that can collect water and pour it out.

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