While Florida residents continue to do their best to protect themselves from the Zika virus, things may become more difficult for them in the coming days. An unnamed storm that could turn into a hurricane is expected to hit the Gulf Coast in the next few days, according to USA Today. The aftermath of a hurricane would make it hard to monitor the Zika outbreak, which currently consists of 43 cases in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties in Florida.
If a pregnant woman is bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus, it can cause birth defects to the fetus. The governor of Florida, Rick Scott, has revealed that state emergency officials are monitoring the storm in the Caribbean but have not activated the state’s emergency operations center.
Although there is a concern that the hurricane may cause the Zika virus to spread, an extension professor of medical entomology at Mississippi State University does not think this will be the case. Jerome Goddard has said that while the storm may lead to an increase of mosquitos in Florida, that doesn’t necessarily mean the disease will spread. He told USA Today that Zika infected mosquitos prefer to breed near people and in man-made containers rather than flooded marshes.
However, pediatric infectious disease specialist and assistant professor of public health at Florida International University in Miami, Consuelo Beck-Sagué has said that the issue is that the damages from the storm could result in the Zika virus spreading. If there are power failures, people will open their windows and go outside to try and cool off, risking exposure to the virus. Also houses that are hit by the hurricane with windows and doors blown off could leave residents exposed to the mosquitos as well.
Beck-Sagué also argued that following the hurricane, resources will be directed towards clean up, helping residents and restoring power, leaving no room to fight the Zika virus. Depending on the amount of damage done by the storm, Florida state officials may have to put their focus on monitoring and containing the virus on hold.