Maricopa County officials prepared for Zika virus

- The Zika Virus is causing a scare in Florida, with the Governor declaring a health emergency in four counties.

Nine people in the state are confirmed to have the mosquito-born virus.

Officials say all nine cases involve people who traveled to other countries where the virus is prevalent, and the first case of sexually-transmitted Zika virus in the United States was reported in Texas.

So as the virus seemingly continues to pop up across the United States, what does this mean for Arizona? Maricopa County officials say they are prepared.

There are no Zika cases in Arizona, but the type of mosquito that can carry the virus already lives in the state. So county officials are monitoring the mosquito population carefully and say they are ready if someone brings the virus here.

Tucked away in a Maricopa County lab, vector control inspectors are identifying mosquitoes. John Townsend is with the county's environment services points out Aedes Aegypti.

"You got the strips and kind of the banding," said John Townsend.

It's the type of blood sucking bug that can spread the Zika virus, and it has lived in Arizona for at least a decade.

"They fly very quickly, they kind of bounce down low, people call them ankle biters," said Townsend.

Texas, Georgia, and Florida have confirmed travel related Zika cases. Townsend says it's only a matter of time before Zika reaches Arizona.

"The way it's spreading, it's kind of fast and furious right now," he said.

Under a microscope, you can see the type of mosquito which could potentially carry the virus, but right now the United States government just doesn't have a test if mosquitoes like these are actually carrying the virus.

Townsend says without the test the county will follow protocols for other mosquito-transmitted diseases, which is putting out traps, collecting samples, and identifying the type of mosquito.

Townsend says any issue in the states will likely be contained, but problems can develop if a mosquito bites an infected person in the United States.

"They pick up the virus from a human who is infected, it grows inside the mosquito, and the next time it lays more eggs it passes on that virus to the next person," said Townsend.

The American Red Cross is asking people who have visited Latin America or the Caribbean in the past 28 days to not donate blood. 

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