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Florida Declares State of Emergency in Four Counties Over Zika Virus Fears

There have been 1 million cases in Brazil since 2014 and 4,000 women have given birth to children with brain defects (Getty) There have been 1 million cases in Brazil since 2014 and 4,000 women have given birth to children with brain defects (Getty)

Florida has declared a state of emergency in four counties after at least nine cases of the Zika virus, which causes severe birth defects, were reported in the state.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the order for Miami-Dade, Lee, Hillsborough and Santa Rosa counties on Wednesday. 

"Today I am directing Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong to declare a public health emergency in the four counties that have individuals with the Zika virus," Scott said in a statement.

Read: Scottish Nurse Who Survived Ebola is Critically Ill With the Virus For Second Time

"Although Florida's current nine Zika cases were travel-related, we have to ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the spread of the Zika virus in our state," he said. "We know that we must be prepared for the worst even as we hope for the best."

The order specifies special steps be taken to ensure residential areas will be sprayed for mosquitos and directs the Florida Department of Health to determine what resources and information is needed from the CDC to stem the spread of the virus.

While not deadly, the Zika virus is linked to major brain deformities in children born to mothers who become infected with the virus during pregnancy. 

Read: First Case of Zika Transmission in U.S. Confirmed in Texas; Spread Through Sex, Officials Say

Zika is spread primarily through mosquitos. However, a person in Texas who was infected while outside the country has transmitted the virus to a sexual partner.

The Texas case is the first confirmed transmission of the virus inside the U.S. 

The countries most heavily affected by the Zika outbreak are in South America and the Caribbean.

There have been 1 million cases in Brazil since the 2014 World Cup and 4,000 women have given birth to children with serious defects that include abnormally small heads, a condition called microcephaly.

Watch: Thousands May Cancel Traveling to Rio for Olympics As Zika Virus Spreads

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