4 Florida counties declare state of emergency over Zika virus

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of public health emergency Wednesday in Florida's Miami-Dade, Lee, Hillsborough and Santa Rosa counties following the confirmation of nine Zika virus cases across the state.

None of the cases have involved pregnant women and all infected individuals recently traveled to the Caribbean and Latin America, where they are thought to have contracted the virus — which is spread through mosquito bites — according to CBS Miami.

"Although Florida's current nine Zika cases were travel-related, we have to ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the spread of the Zika virus in our state," Gov. Scott said in a statement. "Our Department of Health will continue to be in constant communication with all county health offices, hospitals and the CDC. We know that we must be prepared for the worst even as we hope for the best."

Gov. Scott's declaration enables Florida's agriculture department to use bigger doses of mosquito-killing spray in the affected counties and allows the health department to act autonomously to contain the virus.

Researchers have established a strong causal link between Zika virus and microcephaly, an infant birth defect that can result in developmental complications and, in some instances, death. Though the majority of cases have been reported in Brazil, where thousands of babies born with microcephaly first drew attention to Zika, cases have now been reported in nearly 30 countries.

Most Zika carriers are asymptomatic, with only about 1 in 5 presenting with mild fever and other flu symptoms that last about a week. However, concerns for pregnant women are so great that some governments, such as El Salvador, have recommended citizens hold off on becoming pregnant until at least 2018. 

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