More than three-quarters of Floridians now feel some level of unease

Concern about the Zika virus continues to grow in Florida, a new Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey shows.

The online poll, conducted August 14 to August 18, surveyed 1,500 adults in Florida, and polling ended a day before Governor Rick Scott announced that mosquitos are spreading the virus in the Miami area. Today (August 23), Scott announced a non-travel related case of Zika was found in Pinellas County.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control describes the ailment as being caused by the Zika virus, which is spread mainly through the bite of an infected mosquito (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus).

The virus 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, according to the CDC.

Saint Leo University’s poll ( shows 79.3 percent of respondents say they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the virus. The polling institute’s June survey of 500 adults in Florida provided a similar response with 71.2 percent expressing concern.

The August poll states 11.1 percent say they are “somewhat unconcerned,” 7.5 percent indicate they are “not at all concerned,” and 2.1 percent say they are unsure or do not know enough to answer.

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 Dr. Cheryl Clauson, Saint Leo University assistant professor of biology.

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.

“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,” Clauson said.

But, she continued, “pregnant women need to be very careful about traveling to the affected areas of Miami. Pregnant women should avoid the area altogether if possible, postponing non-essential travel as needed. If a woman who is currently pregnant lives in these areas of Miami, 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 Saint Leo biologist advised couples who are considering having children to wait at least eight weeks after returning from a Zika-affected area before trying to get pregnant, even if the woman does not have a confirmed case. “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,” Clauson said.

Florida’s counties are taking steps to get rid of mosquito breeding grounds and 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.

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: All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument from August 14 to August 18, 2016. This special statewide poll of 1,500 Florida adults has a plus or minus margin of error of 3.0 percent.

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 polling 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 also can follow the institute on Twitter: @saintleopolls.

More 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.