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Published originally in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Fifteen people have contracted the Zika virus in Florida from what is suspected to be transmission by local mosquitoes. As Zika continues to spread in our state and abroad it is critical to understand how this virus could impact you and your family, and how to practice preventative measures so you can be healthy and safe.

Across the country, Planned Parenthood health centers serve 2.5 million patients every year with high-quality reproductive health and education. Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida is the region's largest provider of sex education and each year we serve over 40,000 patients with access to high-quality reproductive health care services. We are working alongside public health officials to provide our 11 health centers with the most up-to-date information about Zika so you can be informed and empowered.

Zika has become an international threat — it is spreading rapidly by mosquitoes in countries across Latin America, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. There have been more than 1,600 travel and sexually transmitted cases confirmed in the continental U.S., including 333 cases in Florida not involving pregnant women, and 55 that do. There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika at this time, and experts anticipate active Zika will continue to grow in the coming months.

As an obstetrician and gynecologist, I want to help you know the facts. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention anticipates that Florida is at a high risk for the Zika virus, and the best ways to protect yourself are to avoid mosquito bites and have safe sex.

There are some very basic steps that we can each take to avoid mosquito bites: keep windows and doors closed, stay in air-conditioned or screened rooms, or use mosquito netting, wear long sleeves and pants while you’re outside, and use effective mosquito repellent. When it comes to sex, use condoms or dental dams every time you have vaginal, oral or anal sex, or share sex toys. If you live in, or have traveled to, an area with active Zika transmission, or had sex without a condom or dental dam with someone who has traveled to affected areas you should ask a doctor or nurse about getting tested. Planned Parenthood providers are available to help you decide if you should be tested, and will work alongside local health departments to determine the best next steps too.

The medical community is still learning more about the Zika virus, but we do know that it poses serious risks for pregnant women. When a fetus is exposed to the virus during pregnancy, Zika can cause microcephaly and other severe brain problems. It is also associated with impaired fetal growth, hearing loss in infants and other complications for pregnant women, including miscarriage. There is no way to know in advance whether Zika will harm a pregnancy or not.

Family planning is the primary strategy recommended by the CDC to reduce Zika-related pregnancy complications. Unfortunately, Gov. Rick Scott continues to limit access to family planning in Florida, restricting access to safe and legal abortion, and refusing to expand Medicaid coverage. Planned Parenthood is committed to ensuring that all people have access to the reproductive health care they deserve, no matter their income, ethnicity, sexual identity, or geography. Know that, as we navigate this Zika crisis, Planned Parenthood is here for you — no matter what.

Click here to make an appointment today.

Dr. Suzie Prabhakaran is vice president of Medical Affairs for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.



Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, an affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, began operations in 1966 and provides vital sexual and reproductive health services and comprehensive sexuality education to women, men and teens in Ft. Myers, Immokalee, Kissimmee, Lakeland, Manatee, Naples, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and Tampa. The mission of Planned Parenthood is to ensure the right of all individuals to manage their sexual and reproductive health by providing medical services, education and advocacy. Go to www.myplannedparenthood.org for information or call (941) 365.3913.


Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida


Anna Eskamani: 941-209-7940, [email protected]


August 09, 2016