Choose Your City
Change City

Florida governor complains U.S. not doing enough to fight Zika

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Florida Governor Rick Scott on Wednesday said the federal government has so far not delivered all of the Zika antibody tests and laboratory support he has requested as the state battles the spread of the virus.

The complaint comes as Zika cases mount in some of the most popular tourist destinations in the state.

On Wednesday, the Florida Department of Health reported a second non-travel related case of Zika in Palm Beach County, bringing the state's total to 43 cases.


That followed Tuesday's announcement of Florida's first case of Zika transmitted by mosquitoes in Pinellas County, some 265 miles (425 km) from Miami where the first locally transmitted U.S. cases were reported.

Federal health officials last week warned pregnant women not to travel to Miami Beach after Florida confirmed that the mosquito-borne Zika virus was active there, becoming the second area in Miami to be affected after Wynwood.

The Zika virus was first detected in Brazil last year and has since spread across the Americas. The virus poses a risk to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects. It has been linked to more than 1,800 cases of microcephaly in Brazil.

In a teleconference on Wednesday, Scott made a plea for more support in fighting Zika, complaining that "Congress and the White House have not been good partners."

Scott said he asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 5,000 Zika antibody tests last week, but so far has only received less than 1,200. He had also asked for additional lab support personnel to speed testing.

Scott also said the state has asked the CDC for 10,000 Zika prevention kits for pregnant women, which have not been provided. And it has asked the White House for a detailed plan on how to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which he said has not been provided.

CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said in a statement the agency has been responding to Florida’s requests.

“CDC has and will continue to provide the support to Florida to address the Zika outbreak. We've provided millions in federal funds, deployedpersonnel and we've shipped materials for testing and more for testing still to come,” Skinner said in an email.

Scott made some of the same complaints about the CDC last week, including the request for 10,000 Zika Prevention Kits. Asked about delays in delivering the kits in a conference call on Friday, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said the agency has already provided 10,000 products containing the insect repellant DEET for use in Florida.

Frieden said the Zika Prevention Kits contain a number of products that would not necessarily be useful in Florida. In addition to insect repellent, the kits include bed nets, larvicide tablets and condoms.

"We sent the state of Florida more than $35 million for Zika and other emergencies. That includes funds to purchase the other products they might want in a Zika prevention kit," he said.

As for the request on Friday of 5,000 antibody test kits, Frieden said, "We've already arranged for them and they will begin shipping on Tuesday."

He also said that the CDC has provided Florida laboratories with some technical support.

As for the new case in Palm Beach County, Scott said he believed it was not related to an earlier non-travel related case announced earlier in the same county.

He said state health officials have been doing aggressive mosquito abatement and have begun sampling individuals in the area to look for more cases.

"At this point we still believe we only have non-travel related local transmission of Zika in two areas," Scott said, referring to the Wynwood neighborhood in Miami-Dade county, and a section of Miami Beach.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; additonal reporting by Anna Driver in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)