Metropolitan Ministries Outreach Centers, a Tampa Charity, has consigned Zika kits to homeless community members in Holiday and Tampa, Florida.
With more than 200 documented cases of Zika, a disease that spreads through mosquito bites, in Florida, a local charity saw that hundreds of families living in their cars, tents and in the woods received kits to protect them from multiple mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika. Metropolitan Ministries began their efforts by giving out approximately 150 Zika-prevention kits to homeless individuals, who live without proper window screens or air conditioning.
According to Metropolitan Ministries’ Shawn LaFata, the homeless community is particularly vulnerable during the summer months, that’s in addition to facing environmental conditions, such as rain and heat. The “Zika Virus Kits,” which is equipped with mosquito netting, mosquito spray, and water treatment tablets to place in standing water, will help to protect the homeless. Also, homeless individuals can seek out the group’s outreach centers to have their personal items and clothes sprayed for protection.
“Hundreds of homeless families across Tampa Bay are living in their cars, tents and in the woods in this extreme summer heat,” a Metropolitan Ministries blog states. “The Zika virus is a new threat to the area. For little children, and expectant mothers, these conditions are dangerous. It’s not uncommon for us to see homeless children and parents covered in bug bites.”
Late June, Gov. Rick Scott authorized the $26.2 million on the purchase of Zika prevention kits and killing mosquitos. Additionally, the Florida Department of Health will send money to counties and districts ridden with mosquitos.
The Zika virus transmission cycle begins with symptoms, such as rash, fever, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), and it spreads when a person infected with the virus due to maternal transmission from mother to baby in the womb, unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sexual intercourse, or when an Aedes mosquito bites an infected person and then an that mosquito bites another person. Also, Zika can be transmitted through blood transfusion, and through the exchange of bodily fluids, including urine and saliva. With that said Dr. Satish Pillai, the CDC’s incidence manager for the case, has told reporters, “We don’t have evidence that Zika can be passed from one person to another by sneezing, coughing, by hugging or kissing.”
Presently, the Zika virus is still extremely rare in the U.S., with there being fewer than 1,000 cases diagnosed nationwide. However, the short-term disease is serious, and it can trigger paralysis (Guillain-Barré Syndrome) and subsequent birth defects in some women. Despite a Utah case where a patient died from the Zika virus, it’s not normally deadly and not necessarily dangerous to anyone beyond developing fetuses. The worst that normally happens are muscle aches, fevers, and rashes.
With the second highest rate of Zika viruses in the nation (approximately 162 cases as of June 22), Florida-dwelling individuals living in poverty are particularly vulnerable. According to the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative, the Tampa area has more than 1,800 homeless individuals. Also, statewide, the figure rises to 35,964 homeless people.
Visit CDC to learn more about the Zika virus and visit the Metropolitan Ministries website to learn more about the work they do to house and help the community of Tampa. To help protect more homeless families from Zika, you can donate a kit here.