Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Health

Zika mosquito sites in Miami Beach identified near schools, tourist site

MIAMI — Nearly all of the locations in Miami Beach where traps captured mosquitoes carrying Zika virus in August and September are residential areas, though some are close to schools or tourist spots, according to information released Wednesday by Miami-Dade officials.

The county identified four addresses in South Beach after the Miami Herald filed a lawsuit against Miami-Dade seeking the locations.

The locations are: 1619 Meridian Ave., a 12-unit apartment building near Lincoln Road Mall; 932 Lenox Ave.; 1236 Drexel Ave., an eight-unit apartment building near the Miami Beach Police Department, and 2378 Prairie Ave., near Hebrew Academy's Rabbi Alexander Gross High School and Miami Beach Senior High.

Health officials had already identified the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, 2000 Convention Center Drive, as one of the sites on Sept. 1, though the garden had been closed three days prior.

Health department officials notified residents before releasing the addresses. One resident, who contacted the Herald after receiving a visit from health officials, said he thinks the information should have been released earlier. University of Miami student Galen Treuer said he lives at 1236 Drexel Ave. and sent a photograph of health officials at his door.

"I feel it was a real failure of communication," Treuer, 37, said. "They weren't giving out information to reduce our exposure."

At the Prairie Avenue site, an artist working at the pink, two-story Mediterranean style house — which is next door to a parking lot for Miami Beach High — said he knew there were three mosquito traps placed at the home about two months ago.

Gian Bruno Hass, 59, said his brother-in-law owns the house. "I think the government should have enlightened us," he said.

The state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services first announced that three of 19 mosquito traps in Miami Beach had captured Zika-positive mosquitoes on Sept. 1. A fourth batch was announced on Sept. 9, and a fifth on Sept. 16.

All of the infected mosquitoes were captured inside the 1.5-square-mile area initially identified on Aug. 19 as having active spread of the virus, between Eighth and 28th Streets from the ocean to the bay. The transmission zone was expanded north on Sept. 16 to a 4.5-square-mile area, from Eighth Street to 63rd Street.

Since the last batch of Zika-positive mosquitoes was announced, however, no more traps have captured insects with the virus, according to a letter Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez sent Tuesday to State Surgeon General Celeste Philip.

The letter came after the Herald's lawsuit set off a dispute between the county and the Florida Department of Health about releasing the information. Both agencies initially denied the Herald's public records requests. They said the records were exempt from the public records law because they were part of an epidemiological investigation.

But Tuesday, Gimenez sent a letter to Philip advising her that the county would release the locations unless otherwise instructed by the health department in writing. Both Philip and Gov. Rick Scott's office responded late Tuesday that the county was free to notify the public of the trap locations.

Gimenez's letter, combined with information in the records released Wednesday by the county, offer the most specific information yet about the five traps that captured mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus.

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