Second Zika Case Reported in Broward, Web Thinks Virus Is a Conspiracy

Second Zika Case Reported in Broward, Web Thinks Virus Is a Conspiracy
TurkleTom via Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, Broward's first case of the zika virus was reported, and Gov. Rick Scott declared a public health emergency in the county. Zika is ripping its way through poor communities in Brazil, and is tied to birth defects. For about a week, that first report was believed to be the only Broward case, until state Surgeon General John Armstrong, in his daily zika virus update yesterday, revealed that a second case had been reported in the county.

It was really only a matter of time before zika hit South Florida in some form. The area is something of a haven for mosquitoes, including the pesky Aedes Aegypti strain, known for carrying a host of tropical diseases, like dengue fever, chikungunya, and, now, zika. After a 2009 dengue outbreak in Key West sickened 88 people, health officials began to worry about an increase in Florida's Aedes Aegpyti population, but hard-nosed mosquito control efforts, like trap-setting and draining sources of standing water, have largely kept tropical diseases in check in the last few years.

More important, scores of travelers each year shuffle between South Florida and countries now struggling with zika. Throughout the state, 16 people have contracted the virus, including six in Miami-Dade County. All of those people, the surgeon general reported, caught the virus while traveling overseas. A locally transmitted case has not been reported yet.

Though the Centers for Disease Control say zika's symptoms — which include fever, rash, and joint pain — tend to be mild, and typically don't require hospitalization, the virus is particularly terrifying for pregnant mothers. The virus likely causes microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with permanently undersized heads and partially developed brains. In December, Brazil warned women not to get pregnant until the country's zika outbreak comes under control, sparking widespread discussions about access to birth control.

Additionally, as part of the governor's health-emergency mandate, officials from the Florida Department of Health in Broward County, along with the Broward County Emergency Management Division, will brief Broward's community leaders later today about the state's plan to deal with the virus. Among other groups, representatives from Broward's county commission, local hospitals, ports, and airports have been invited to attend, county Emergency Management Director Miguel Ascarrunz said. The meeting, scheduled for 3 p.m. at the health department's administrative center in Fort Lauderdale, is not open to the public.

Cynthia Peterson, executive vice president of the Broward County Medical Association, said she was not yet sure what the protocol is if a patient is diagnosed with zika.

"That's what we hope to learn from the meeting," she said. "I'll be there representing our doctors, though it's hard getting doctors there at three in the afternoon."

Earlier this month, the health department sent this "Think Zika" pamphlet out to local hospitals in order to make sure doctors were keeping an eye out for the virus.

Meanwhile, a host of zika conspiracy theories seem to have sprung up around the world. As our sister paper, Miami New Times, reported in 2012, scientists have been genetically modifying Aedes Aegpyti mosquitoes for a number of years to, basically, self-destruct upon hatching.

Because the roads of the web are paved with conspiracy-peddling wing-nuts, social media users have grabbed that fact and run headlong with it — Redditors, especially, have said they believe zika to be a human-generated form of population control borne on the backs of genetically modified mosquitoes. Blame has been thrown, in varying degrees, to the Rockefeller and Rothschild families, as well as Barack Obama. Farming conglomerate and source-of-all-things-evil Monsanto has also, erroneously, been deemed a culprit.

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