Florida health officials confirmed three new Zika infections on Thursday, including one case in Miami-Dade and two in Broward, raising the statewide total to 165 people who have contracted the virus this year.
As summer arrives, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott appealed to President Obama for help combating Zika, federal officials announced a new source of assistance for states: Medicaid dollars are available to prevent, detect and respond to the virus.
Miami-Dade leads the state in Zika cases, with 50 infections reported this year, while Broward has the second most, with 19 people affected. The statewide total includes 38 cases involving pregnant women, who along with their unborn children face the greatest risk because the virus attacks fetal brain tissue and can cause congenital microcephaly, a condition in which a newborn’s head is smaller than normal and can lead to developmental challenges later in life.
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The new guidance on Medicaid coverage for preventing, detecting and treating Zika allows states and private insurers managing Medicaid programs to pay for mosquito repellant when prescribed by a healthcare professional to combat the virus.
States also may consider changing their Medicaid policies to provide extended services for pregnant women, such as additional ultrasounds, according to the letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Federal officials also noted that Medicaid may cover other benefits related to Zika prevention, such as family planning and counseling, including learning about safe sexual practices to combat spread of the virus, and contraceptives.
There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika virus, which is spread primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has reported cases transmitted through blood transfusions and by infected men to their sexual partners.
Of the cases confirmed in Florida, seven people are still exhibiting symptoms, which include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes lasting seven to 10 days, according to the CDC. The CDC has reported 591 Zika infections in the continental United States as of May 25.
Zika infections in Florida as of June 2
Number of Cases
Total cases not involving pregnant women
Cases involving pregnant women regardless of symptoms*
* Counties of pregnant women are not disclosed
Source: Florida Department of Health