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Orange County takes proactive measures to reduce threat of Zika outbreak

5th Fla. county added to Zika health emergency

TAMPA, Fla. – The threat of Zika virus spreading rapidly across Florida is pushing counties like Seminole to take action.

Timberland Trail in Altamonte Springs was one street on a list of areas covered in repellant. Other spots include Lake Mary, Sanford and Longwood. One man said he took matters into his own hands.

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"We called out the local authorities to come and do some spraying around the neighborhood," he said.

It's what the state wants Floridians to do: Make sure you're proactive by dumping standing water near your home, cleaning empty pool areas and making sure you're slathered with DEET bug spray.

“These mosquitoes are found in areas that collect and hold water around homes in places like tin cans, old tires, buckets, unused plastic swimming pools,” said Orange County Mosquito Control Division acting manager Kelly Deutsch in a release. “It’s also important to remove or refresh water in bird baths and pet dishes at least every week. Controlling these mosquitoes is really a community effort.  We need all residents to take a look around their homes to see how they can help lower their risk of contact with these mosquitoes by eliminating unnecessary standing water.”

Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for even higher action. He asked President Obama to coordinate a national response with a Zika czar as point-person.

"If Puerto Rico's and Florida's history in dealing with other mosquito-borne illnesses is any indication of the potential for viral spread, these numbers are likely to rise as we head into the summer months," Nelson said in a statement.

The numbers are already growing. There are at least a dozen cases in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott is now ordering 5,000 Zika kits to test the most vulnerable -- pregnant women.

"We're preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," said Scott, comparing the readiness to that of a hurricane. "We're going to stay ahead of the Zika virus."

Scott said the mosquito that carries the virus is very common in Florida but added that he wants residents and tourists to know that Florida is safe.

This week, the American Red Cross issued a blood donation policy change, in which anyone who has traveled to Zika-affected countries should delay blood donations for 28 days.

Additionally, people who have already donated blood and who develop symptoms should call the Red Cross to keep their infected blood from entering local blood supplies.

One Blood, which distributes blood donations in Florida, told News 6 it will also begin a similar policy.

"If the donor visited any of the areas within the past 28 days, they will be asked not to donate," said Pat Michaels, of One Blood. "The public should take great comfort in knowing our local blood supply is safe and meets the highest possible standards mandated by the (Food and Drug Administration)."

The Zika virus is linked to brain deformities in babies and is causing concern among public health officials worldwide. The virus is primarily spread through mosquito bites, but investigators had been exploring the possibility it could be sexually transmitted.

U.S. health officials say a person in Texas became infected with Zika through sex, in the first case of the illness being transmitted within the United States.