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Governor Scott Holds a Roundtable in Collier About Zika

Collier County Mosquito Control District

Gov. Rick Scott was in Naples Monday, hosting a roundtable discussion on Zika readiness with the Collier County Health Department and the county’s mosquito control district.

Florida health officials are battling 43 confirmed cases of homegrown transmission of the virus. Nearly all of them are in the Miami-Dade neighborhoods of Wynwood and Miami Beach, including one new case of local transmission as recently as Monday. But there have been two investigations of locally-transmitted cases in Palm Beach County, as well as one case in Pinellas County. That’s on top of the nearly 550 travel-related cases statewide.

At Monday’s meeting in Naples, the governor reiterated his message about being proactive when it comes to combating mosquito-borne diseases, urging the public to use repellant, wear long clothing to guard against bites, and pushing to eliminate standing water (the breeding ground for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito that carries the Zika virus).

Collier officials said Monday they have so far been able to keep the Zika threat at bay.

“We have planned well, our policies are in place, for problems like this,” said Patrick Linn, the executive director of Collier’s Mosquito Control District. Linn was at Monday’s roundtable with the governor. He confirmed the sixth travel-related case of the virus in Collier as of Friday. Currently there are no locally-transmitted cases in Collier.

Linn said Collier is among the districts already putting the governor’s additional $26 million Zika-fighting dollars to good use. But in his regular meetings with the Department of Agriculture and other mosquito control programs statewide, Linn said he’s learned smaller districts aren’t as well off.

“There are very small districts or organizations, that may be working under their own health departments, or even the county in which they exist, and they are struggling,” he said. They are the focus for much of the state’s support, Linn added, even with the most active transmissions happening elsewhere.

“Suffice it to say that, with or without the assistance of the state and or federal government, [Collier County] will still be able to meet our mission,” he said.

With a tropical storm potentially forming off the Gulf Coast this week, threatening to dump several inches of rain on Southwest Florida, Linn said Collier Mosquito Control is doing what it can to keep the pressure on the bugs that carry the virus.

“The weather’s probably the number one factor to get the job done,” he said, adding that, despite the rain, “when the storms are gone, we’ll be right back out doing it again.”

As of Monday there were eight travel-related Zika cases in Lee County, three in Manatee, two in Sarasota, and one in Charlotte County.

Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.