VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - Mosquitoes carrying Zika are now in the United States, and right in our backyard. There are 14 confirmed cases of Zika caused by mosquito bites in Florida. Before now, all Zika cases in America were acquired by traveling or sexually transmitted.
Flyers and signs show about how to get rid of and avoid mosquitoes. These have been taken to local churches and schools throughout Lowndes County. However, public health officials say they have been preparing for this to happen.
For public health officials, it was never a matter of if Zika carrying mosquitoes would arrive; it was when. "We've known it was going to show up here, and now it's finally here," said Courtney Sheeley, DPH Communications Specialist.
The number of confirmed cases of locally transmitted Zika in Florida, our southern neighbor, just keeps growing, it's now at 14. Public health officials are urging the community to continue taking precautions against mosquito bites.
"People in Georgia, and anywhere, need to be taking the precautionary measures anyhow, no matter if these four cases in Miami had been found or not," said Sheeley.
And it's not just Zika. Officials say we need to be concerned with ALL mosquito transmitted viruses, like EEE and West Nile, which already show up nearly every year in Georgia.
"The guidance for protecting yourself against Zika is essentially the same guidance you're going to take against all mosquito borne illnesses," said Kenneth Lowery, DPH District Epidemiologist.
Things like wearing mosquito repellant, staying indoors when possible, and getting rid of all standing water around your home. "By not getting rid of the standing water, you're inviting these mosquitoes to come and breed in your area," said Lowery.
Officials say the more they see the virus, the more they learn about it. So if you travel regularly and think you could have symptoms of Zika they urge you to talk with your physician.
"It's as each day goes on we're learning something new about this virus," said Lowery.
Mosquitoes throughout the state, and even right here in Lowndes County, are regularly tested for viruses. If Zika does show up here, officials say we will be able to detect it quickly.