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Health Official Warns Zika Could Spread Across U.S. Gulf Coast


Zika has been in the United States for some time now. Let's try to understand how big a threat it is. A top health official is warning that the mosquito-borne virus could begin spreading in the southeast. This is Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on ABC News yesterday.


ANTHONY FAUCI: When you have a sub-tropical, a semi-tropical region with the right mosquitoes and individuals who have travel-related cases that are in the environment, it would not be surprising that we will see additional cases not only in Florida but perhaps in other of the Gulf Coast states.

GREENE: And Dr. Fauci said all that flooding in one Gulf Coast state, Louisiana, could cause the virus to spread more. His warning came after officials found five active cases of Zika in the tourist destination of Miami Beach, Fla. On Friday, Florida Governor Rick Scott sounded a little defensive when he was talking to reporters about Zika in his state.


RICK SCOTT: Put it in perspective. We have 36 cases. We have 20.6 million people living in our state. We've probably had 65 million tourists already come to our state this year. We have two small areas, one less than a mile, and we've been able to reduce the footprint. We have another area now that's 1.5 miles on Miami Beach.

That's out of a state that takes 15 hours to drive from Key West to Pensacola. So let's put things in perspective.

GREENE: All right, U.S. health officials have told pregnant women to avoid Miami Beach right now. Zika infections in pregnant women can cause microcephaly, which can lead to severe developmental problems in babies. But so far, the virus is isolated in the U.S. and officials say a diffuse broad outbreak across the country is unlikely. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
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