One nonprofit is making sure some of the most vulnerable members of the community are protected from the Zika virus.
On Monday, Metropolitan Ministries in Tampa, Florida began giving out about 150 Zika-prevention kits to homeless individuals, according to Fox News. The kits will help protect homeless families from the mosquito-borne virus by providing them with a net, bug spray, and tablets to put in standing water, reports WFLA.
“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.”
Florida has the second highest rate of Zika cases in the country, with 162 cases as of June 22, according to the CDC. In February, the governor declared Zika a health emergency in several counties, including Tampa’s Hillsborough County.
People living in poverty are particularly vulnerable to Zika, according to the Washington Post, as many live without air conditioning or proper window screens.
For those who are homeless and living outdoors, the situation is exacerbated:
“I’ve been in Florida for 10 years and every year I run into a family sleeping in a park, or in the woods,” Metropolitan Ministries President Tim Marks told WFLA. “They’ve all complained about bug bites, and now with Zika, the risk is even higher.”
In the Tampa area, there were more than 1,800 homeless individuals counted in 2016, according to the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative. Statewide, that figure rises to 35,964 homeless people, according to the Council on Homelessness.
The worst part is that some areas of Florida reported that 90 percent or more of homeless individuals were unsheltered last year, according to HUD, which would leave them particularly vulnerable to the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
While in most cases, Zika only causes mild symptoms, such as fever or rash, for pregnant women the outcomes can be dramatic: The virus has been found to cause serious birth defects in newborns, including microcephaly, which can lead to intellectual disabilities and developmental delays in children.
Metropolitan Ministries will be handing out the Zika-prevention kits from their outreach center in Tampa, according to Fox News.
To help protect more homeless families from Zika, you can donate a kit here.