iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Hours after Hurricane Hermine made landfall in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott urged the public on Friday to steer clear of debris and standing water to help stop the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
Hermine, which downgraded to a tropical storm after hitting land early Friday, brought strong winds, heavy rains and flooding to a wide swath of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Any area left with standing water creates a prime habitat for mosquitoes to lay their eggs — raising the risk of spreading the Zika outbreak, which has hit small pockets of Miami-Dade County in the southern part of the state.
“It is incredibly important that everyone do their part to combat the Zika virus by dumping standing water,” Scott said during a news conference Friday morning. “Remember to wear long sleeves and bug repellent when outdoors.”
The Zika virus was first detected in a small area of northern Miami in July. A second outbreak location was found in Miami Beach in August. At least 47 people have been infected in the outbreak via mosquitoes.
On Thursday, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said mosquitoes carrying the deadly virus were discovered in the Miami area, marking the first time that Zika has been found in mosquitoes in the continental United States.
Miami-Dade County’s mosquito control team has been spraying for the insects as well as treating mosquito breeding grounds with the hope of stopping the outbreak. But the ongoing tropical system has raised fears that Florida’s efforts to fight the virus will be affected.
At Friday’s news conference, the Florida governor also warned residents to avoid unnecessary travel, as trees, power lines, road signs and traffic lights have come down across the Sunshine State. One man, who appeared to be homeless, was killed after being hit by a tree in Marion County, authorities said. Officials are still determining whether the death was storm-related.
“The number one thing is to stay safe,” Scott said.
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