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Newswise — CLEVELAND -- "Zika virus isn't going anywhere," says Frank Esper, MD, infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital. "If it's anything near what happened with SARS or with Ebola, people are going to be very hesitant to travel to those areas."

This comes after Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in four counties where health officials have detected the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness found in South and Central America and now the southern United States.

"This can have a substantial economic impact if this virus gets established in Florida, that people may not be going there," says Dr. Esper. Canada lost billions of dollars in tourism when SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) traveled from China to Toronto and countries like Brazil, preparing for the 2016 Summer Olympics, stand to lose even more.

In addition to tourism, countries like Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, Venezuela, Ecuador don't have the medical infrastructure and resources for early intervention if they experience an influx of children with developmental disabilities caused by the microcephaly linked to Zika.

"You can have a lifetime of disabilities just because you were not able to intervene during that time," says Dr. Esper.

Sound bites from Frank Esper, MD, an infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, and related b-roll are available for download at the University Hospitals Case Medical Center Newsroom at www.news.uhhospitals.org/

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