Top federal officials visit South Florida to address Zika concerns
By Selima Hussain
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi visited South Florida Friday to address growing concerns about the Zika virus. Pelosi also echoed recent calls for federal funding to combat the virus.
While the Surgeon General met with pregnant women in Miami and Pelosi attended a meeting at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Gov. Rick Scott held a roundtable discussion in Delray Beach to discuss the state's efforts to combat the virus.
The visits come as cases of the mosquito-borne virus continue to rise in South Florida.
There are currently 28 locally acquired cases in the tri-county area, after the Florida Department of Health announced the identification of three new locally acquired cases in Miami-Dade on Friday. Two of those cases are within the Wynwood cluster, while the third was discovered outside of that area.
The state also identified 10 new travel-related cases on Friday, bringing the total number of travel-related cases to 413.
Murthy, who attended a Healthy Start Coalition childbirth education class at Borinquen Medical Centers in Miami, said addressing Zika is a "moral responsibility." He advised pregnant women to take precautionary measures, including wearing mosquito repellent, dumping out standing water and staying in air conditioned areas.
Yolande and Patrick Batista were two of about 12 people attending the class. The young, married couple have been tested for Zika twice and have been taking precautions to prevent contracting the virus, including wearing long-sleeved clothing and using mosquito repellent.
"I just don't want the baby to get hurt," said Yolande, who lives in Broward but works in Miami. Finding out the Miami-Wynwood area was a hot zone for Zika was 'a tough pill to swallow," she said.
"Efforts to develop a vaccine for Zika are being accelerated," Murthy said at a news conference following the class, stressing that "prevention is key."
The physician and Miami native later joined Pelosi and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz during a roundtable discussion at Nova Southeastern University. A panel of local public health experts and doctors were also in attendance.
At a media conference after the discussion, Pelosi said Zika prevention efforts need to be funded.
"That's what's failing in D.C. right now," she said, adding that a budget has to be passed by the end of September.
The Zika virus has been linked to birth defects in infants. The disease can be sexually transmitted and poses the biggest risk to expectant couples.