I keep getting emails and phone calls and messages from friends and family in other states about Zika. I thought it might be worth sharing a few pieces of information, from inside the state, and a few bits of unsolicited advice in case you have a loved one in the “danger zone.”
First, we still don’t know very much, or at least if certain people do know much, they aren’t sharing it very generously. The state has sectioned off one small part of Miami, about a square mile I’m told, and declared that the contaminated area. I’m not a scientist, so I don’t totally get how or why they think mosquitos obey such boundaries, but that’s the information that’s being shared. Pregnant women are being advised to avoid this area, and apparently the UK is also advising visiting citizens to avoid that same area. Governor Scott is both begging for federal funds and crying emergency, and also reassuring tourists that all is well. All of this, and it’s still not clear that there are any infected mosquitos. People are being tested, and I think they are up to twelve or fourteen cases that cannot be explained by travel (remember this is also sexually transmitted, and how else it might be transmitted is unclear), but as far as I know, none of the collected mosquitos have tested positive.
Second, unless pregnant, most people seem to agree there is little to worry about. Thankfully, I am not currently pregnant (I say thankfully for so many reasons, without any intent to insult those struggling with infertility), and we live in an area with relatively few mosquitos. I’m also not having “unprotected” sex with strangers or using dirty needles to do drugs (or any needles, or any drugs).
Third, we have access, thankfully, to excellent medical care, if the virus does spread, which experts seem to agree will happen, whether that means to the entire state of Florida or the entire region.
Fourth, Florida has some experience with these things, including Chikungunya and Dengue, and the poverty rate is much lower here than in some of the other areas battling Zika.
If you do have friends or family in or near the danger zone, or anywhere in Florida, and you are concerned, I have, as promised, a few words of unsolicited advice.
First, stay calm. Sending frantic texts or emails or Facebook messages every time you read a new article about Zika is not helping anyone. Trying to convince your friends and family to flee their home is also probably not especially comforting. If the urge to do this is truly unbearable, it might be time to see someone about that.
Second, announcing your decision to boycott the godforsaken state of Florida is quite unnecessary. We all get plenty of visitors come winter, and this is one of those times you can just keep your big mouth shut.
Third, offer support, in a way that results in more listening than talking. There is a very good chance your friend or family member has been staying informed. People are talking about Zika, it’s on the television and radio, and in the papers, and it’s a popular topic of conversation generally. Unless you are a medical doctor or scientist and your advice is sought, just listen, sympathetically, and help if you can.
Basically, be nice and observe the most basic rules of social interaction.*
*Do as I say, not as I do. Whatever.