The governor of Florida confirmed Friday that the state likely has four locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 1,658 cases of the virus in the United States – but the four non-travel Florida cases are the first to be transmitted by mosquitos in the continental U.S.
“We learned today that four people in our state likely have the Zika virus as a result of a mosquito bite. All four of these people live in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties and the Florida Department of Health believes that active transmissions of this virus could be occurring in one small area in Miami,” Gov. Rick Scott announced in a news conference.
In a Friday statement, the Florida Department of Health says they have “gathered enough information” as part of an ongoing investigation to conclude that “a high likelihood exists that four cases are the result of local transmission.”
The department believes the infected area is just north of downtown.
The Florida Department of Health writes that “no mosquitos trapped tested positive for the Zika virus,” but “the department believes these cases were likely transmitted through infected mosquitos in this area.”
“We know this virus is most detrimental to expecting mothers,” Gov. Rick Scott said on Friday. “If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant and live in the impacted area, I urge you to contact your OB/GYN for guidance and to receive a Zika Prevention kit. I also ask every Floridian to take proper precautions by eliminating any standing water and wearing insect repellent.”
“Following today’s news, I directed the Department of Health to immediately begin contracting with commercial pest control companies to increase spraying and mosquito abatement efforts in the impacted area. We know from our experience with successfully dealing with other mosquito-borne viruses in our state that through constant surveillance and immediate action that we will protect our families and visitors.”
Public health officials say covering your skin, wearing bug spray and getting rid of standing water can protect you from mosquitos.
In order to avoid being bitten this summer, here is a list of the best bug sprays for warding off the zika-spreading Aedes mosquitos, according to Consumer Reports:
• Sawyer Picaridin
• Ben’s 30% Deet Tick & Insect Wilderness Formula
• Repel Lemon Eucalyptus
Each of the top picks contains a different key ingredient: picaridin, DEET and a derivative of eucalyptus. DEET, an active ingredient in many insect repellants, has been used since the 1940s. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DEET is safe for pregnant women and young children.
Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus, on the other hand, should not be used on children under three years old. Insect repellant of any kind should not be used on babies under 2 months of age; instead small babies should be protected by a mosquito net placed around their infant seat or carrier.
And here’s the best way to use mosquito repellants, per the CDC:
• Spray or rub repellant only onto skin not covered by clothes (it’s not necessary to apply repellant under your clothing)
• Use just enough insect repellant to cover your skin; heavy application does not increase effectiveness
• Never use insect repellants on cuts, wounds or irritated skin
• Do not spray insect repellant directly onto your face – spray it into your hands and then carefully apply to your face
• Apply insect repellant after applying sunscreen
• After returning indoors, wash insect repellant off of your skin with soap and water or take a bath.
Protecting your home from mosquito populations is also important. Remember to get rid of standing water. Birdbaths, flowerpots and clogged gutters all make for excellent mosquito breeding grounds.