SAINT LEO, FL – Concerns among Floridians about the Zika virus were constant for more than 70 percent of the population from August to September, according to a new survey by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (

The online poll, conducted online September 10 – September 16, shows concern about the Zika virus (very or somewhat concerned), at 77.4 percent is similar to 79.3 percent from the August 2016 poll. However, alarm about the virus has increased since Saint Leo’s poll in June 2016 (71.3 percent).

In a new development, a federal travel advisory was downgraded Monday, September 19, for a Miami-Dade County neighborhood. The Wynwood area of Miami-Dade had no new cases of the virus reported for 45 days so it met the Centers for Disease Control’s requirement to be declared “Zika free.” The state is approaching 100 locally transmitted cases of the mosquito-borne virus, according to the governor’s office.

“I thought that it was interesting that the percentage of Floridians concerned about Zika did not change in the last month,” said Dr. Cheryl Clauson, Saint Leo University assistant professor of biology. “Zika is still present in Miami Beach [with both people and mosquitoes testing positive], even if the Wynwood area of Miami has seemingly been cleared.”

The Florida Department of Health said there were nine new travel-related cases on Wednesday, September 21, with two in Broward, two in Miami-Dade, two in Orange, and one in Brevard counties, and two involving pregnant women. On August 23, the day the last Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey was released, Gov. Rick Scott announced a non-travel related case of Zika was found in Pinellas County.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control states that Zika virus, which is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes species of mosquito can be passed from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus. The CDC also confirmed that the virus is responsible for severe defects, including microcephaly, in unborn children. When delivered, such babies have abnormally small heads and often, brain defects. In addition, the disease also can be spread through sexual contact.

“The Pinellas case is puzzling because it hasn’t been traced to travel or sexual transmission and yet no mosquitoes have tested positive in that area of the state,” Clauson said. “I would have thought that the jump across the state would have caused more concern amongst West Coast Floridians.”

Saint Leo’s September poll shows that only 18.8 percent of respondents say they are somewhat unconcerned or not at all concerned, compared to 18.6 percent in August 2016—not a statistically significant increase. The June 2016 poll found 26.9 percent said they were somewhat unconcerned or not at all concerned.

In general, people who are healthy and are not thinking of having children anytime soon have little to nothing to worry about from Zika, said Clauson, the Saint Leo biologist. There may be an association between Zika and Guillain-Barré Syndrome. However, this only occurs in a very small number of people who contract Zika.

Many of those infected with the virus have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, according to the CDC. The symptoms can include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes).There is no specific medication for the virus.

“Pregnant women need to be very careful about traveling to the affected areas of Florida,” Clauson said. “Pregnant women should avoid the affected areas altogether if possible, postponing non-essential travel as needed. If a woman who is currently pregnant lives in these areas of Florida, she should talk to her healthcare provider about getting tested for Zika during her pregnancy. Her partner would need to use condoms throughout the pregnancy to prevent possibly passing Zika to her.”

The CDC and other health organizations are studying transmission through sexual intercourse. For couples that are thinking about getting pregnant, women should wait at least eight weeks after returning from a Zika-affected area before trying to get pregnant, whether she had a confirmed case or not, Clauson said, based on CDC advice. Men who did not have a confirmed Zika infection should also wait eight weeks. However, if he had a confirmed Zika infection, he should wait six months before trying to get pregnant with his female partner.

Florida’s counties are taking steps to get rid of mosquito breeding grounds to prevent the spread of the Zika virus. The Aedes species are “aggressive daytime biters,” according to the CDC, but also can bite at night.

Clauson recommends using insect repellants with particular active ingredients: DEET, IR3535, oil of eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or picaridin. “Because many people who use repellant may also use sunscreen, the repellant should be applied after sunscreen is applied,” she said.

Floridians also should empty anything outside their houses that could hold standing water—planters, small boats, pet bowls—to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in those containers.

In Pasco County, home to University Campus of Saint Leo, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is partnering with Pasco County Solid Waste and Pasco County Utilities to hold free tire disposal event from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, September 25, at two locations. The old tires, which can collect standing water, will be accepted at the Pasco County Resource Recovery Facility, 14606 Hays Road, Shady Hills, FL, and the East Pasco Transfer Center, 9626 Handcart Road, Dade City, FL.

Media contacts: Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications by email at or (352) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text) or Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text)

More About Our Research

METHODOLOGY: The surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument from September 10 – September 16. The Florida poll yielded 502 responses, with an associated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can be found here: You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University ( is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever our students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. We welcome people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourage learners of all generations. We are committed to providing educational opportunities to our nation’s armed forces, our veterans, and their families. We are regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and we guide all our students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.

We remain the faithful stewards of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where our founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 15,000 students, we have expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintain a physical presence in seven states. We provide highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 82,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.