Friday, August 19, 2016

Second zone for Zika virus found in Miami-Dade

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 4:51 PM

  • Photo by James Gathany of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A second area has been identified in Miami-Dade County where the mosquito-borne Zika virus is originating, as five more people, including three tourists, have tested positive for the disease.

There have now been 36 confirmed cases of people getting infected in the state, with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanding a travel advisory for pregnant women to include an area in Miami Beach.

Gov. Rick Scott and state health officials had previously said local transmission of the disease was only occurring in Miami's Wynwood community. But with the virus also now being found in part of Miami Beach, Scott announced Friday he's requested additional resources from the CDC.

Scott described the targeted areas of Wynwood and Miami Beach as "small." Also, he said health officials continue to reduce the size of the Wynwood zone as they determine where active transmissions are occurring.

Hoping to minimize the impact on tourism, Scott said the state continues to offer free mosquito spraying to businesses, particularly those involved in the economically critical tourism industry, and that he's directed the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to provide information about Zika to hotels, attractions and restaurants in Miami-Dade County.

"We have a safe state, and we're going to keep it that way," said Scott, who held a news conference Friday in Miami-Dade.

Among the people who recently tested positive were visitors from New York, Texas and Taiwan.

Scott also held separate conference calls Friday with Miami-Dade elected officials, state university presidents and state college presidents.

He said he would return to Miami next week for a roundtable discussion about Zika with health and education officials.

The mosquito-borne virus generally produces mild symptoms. However, it is particularly dangerous to pregnant women because it can lead to severe birth defects, including microcephaly, which leaves babies with abnormally small heads and developmental problems.

In addition to the infections that originated in Florida, the Department of Health on Friday reported 488 travel-related cases, which stem from people bringing the virus into the state after being infected elsewhere. The state has 68 infections involving pregnant women.

The new zone in Miami Beach, where the transmissions are believed to have occurred, is between 8th Street and 28th Street, between the beach and the Intracoastal Waterway.

Scott said the state will not put out a travel advisory similar to a CDC advisory.

"Put it in perspective, we have 36 cases, we have 20.6 million people that live in our state, we've probably had 65 million tourists come to our state this year," Scott said. "We have two small areas, one (in Wynwood) less than a mile and we've been able to reduce the footprint, and we have another area now that is 1.5 miles on Miami Beach, that's out of a state that takes 15 hours to drive from Key West to Pensacola. So let's put things in perspective."

Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip said the people from Texas, New York and Taiwan who were infected with Zika have all returned home.

The two other latest cases involved people from Miami-Dade County. Philip said additional cases are being investigated in the county.

In Scott's request to the CDC, he sought an additional 5,000 Zika antibody test kits. With Congress unable to reach agreement on a Zika funding package, Scott also asked President Barack Obama for an additional 10,000 Zika prevention kits.

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