MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida police officer who contracted Zika is speaking out about the challenges she is facing on her road to recovery.
Miami Beach Sgt. Michelle Sayegh is used to dealing with criminals on the streets, but she never thought a mosquito bite would put her out of commission. “I wanted everybody to be aware that it’s here,” she said. “When it doesn’t happen to someone you know or to yourself, it doesn’t seem real.”
Sayegh said she contracted Zika in September. “I had gone in for work, and it felt like a train hit me,” she said.
The 12-year veteran with the department patrols the active transmission area, in Miami Beach, connected to several cases of the virus.
When Sayegh noticed her hands swelling and rashes, it didn’t take her long to put two and two together. “It looks like I had boxer hands, like I had gone several rounds,” she said.
After taking two weeks off, Sayegh is back on the job, but her battle isn’t over, and she said she’s worried about other officers. “I want the department to take care of anybody who may have the same issue that I have,” she said.
Sayegh still suffers from joint pain, and she lost 20 pounds.
She said she’s getting pushback from the department. “I was told that I could not come to work, and when I did return to work, when they allowed me to return back to work, I was advised that I would not be covered under workmen’s comp, and that I would have to use my own sick time for the time that I was out,” she said.
7News reached out to Miami Beach Police for comment, but they referred reporters to the police union.
“She’s the first first responder in the United States to ever contract it,” said Robert Jenkins, president of the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police.
Jenkins said the department should provide coverage for Sayegh. “If it was done at work, and they knew it was an area they’re telling people not to be, and we’re sending our first responders in there, they should do the right thing and cover it,” he said.
According to a spokesperson for the City of Miami Beach, an employee must show they have contracted a disease like Zika on the job in order to be covered by workmen’s comp. The city does provide free Zika testing for all employees.
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