The number of pregnant women in Florida who have contracted the Zika virus is growing, according to a new report out of the Sunshine State. Local health officials announced Wednesday that 80 women in various stages of pregnancy have tested positive in Florida for having the mosquito-borne virus that scientists believe originated in Brazil, local ABC affiliate WPLG reported Thursday.
While the new figure pales in comparison to the overall numbers statewide of nearly 600 travel-related cases and dozens of non-travel related cases, it is likely especially alarming for health officials, who have warned of serious health complications arising from a woman giving birth while she is infected with the virus. The child is at a high risk of being born with microcephaly, a birth defect which is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as "a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected."
That's exactly what happened Thursday when doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami announced a baby was born with the condition, according to WPLG. The hospital is currently treating 15 pregnant women with Zika, a doctor there said.
"Zika is a thing. Zika is real, and while we don't understand it fully, that is not a reason to dismiss its impact," Dr. Christine Curry said Wednesday night.
The state outbreak has triggered a number of responses from local government, including offering pregnant women in Florida a Zika prevention kit, the Sun Sentinel reported.
"Just like with a hurricane, we have worked hard to stay ahead of the spread of Zika and prepare for the worst," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in late July.
Many pregnant women in Florida have been making it a point to cover themselves up in an attempt to ward off potential mosquito bites, if they come outdoors at all, the New York Times reported last month.
"All it takes is one mosquito bite to change the entire course of our lives," Amanda Paradiz, who was 16 weeks pregnant at the time, told the Times.
State health officials last week confirmed that mosquitos found in Miami Beach tested positive for carrying the Zika virus, prompting aerial spraying of pesticide that has resulted in somewhat of a local controversy among Miami-Dade County residents and politicians alike.
"It's a neurotoxin," Miami Beach City Commissioner Mike Grieco told NBC Miami of the pesticide Naled, which has been approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "We don't know the risks. It's been outlawed in Europe since 2012. It's something that has not been used in Miami, historically."
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine looked at the spraying from a different perspective. "I am not comfortable with it, but I think it's important that we listen to the proper scientific and medical authorities and what they recommend," he said.