Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an emergency declaration regarding the Zika virus that covered several counties, including the Tampa Bay area.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Zika illness is generally mild with a rash, fever and joint pain. CDC researchers are examining a possible link between the virus and harm to unborn babies exposed during pregnancy.
Here's what you need to know if you're planning to visit Tampa Bay, according to the state and county health departments:
1. There has been no local transmission of Zika virus in Tampa Bay. The three local people (in a population of 1.3 million) who have been confirmed with the virus contracted it while visiting locations in the Caribbean and South America. They did not contract it in the Tampa Bay region. There have been no locally transmitted Zika cases in all of Florida.
2. The Tampa Bay area has a very active mosquito control program. Local governments operate mosquito-abatement programs that call for spraying, treating standing water and trapping adult mosquitoes. Crews stay on alert all year for mosquito-borne illnesses and work diligently to limit mosquito populations.
3. Mosquito repellent is a good first line of defense. If you know you will be in an area with mosquitoes, repellents with DEET, Picaridin or eucalyptus oil will help you avoid bites. So will wearing long sleeves or clothes treated with the repellent permethrin.
4. Be alert for standing water. Flower pots, bird baths and puddles all make breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Let your hosts know if you feel they might have a problem that needs correcting.
5. If you're cruising out of Tampa Bay, you should take precautions (repellent, protective clothing) if you're traveling to a destination with a known Zika outbreak, but the risk of a cruise ship transporting Zika-infected mosquitoes to Tampa Bay is extremely small. Nevertheless, the health department and Port Tampa Bay have active monitoring programs at the port.
Visit Tampa Bay maintains close ties with all agencies responsible for monitoring Zika and control mosquitoes. The safety of our visitors is our top priority, and we will continue to post updates as we get them.