Thursday, April 26, 2018
Health

Zika virus now spreading in Miami Beach, Herald reports

MIAMI — A new area of ongoing Zika transmission has been identified in Miami Beach, the Miami Herald reports, citing sources familiar with discussions that Florida health officials held with local public officials Thursday to alert them.

State officials were expected to identify a specific geographic area for ongoing Zika transmission within Miami Beach on Thursday, the Herald reported, but the Florida Department of Health did not immediately respond to request for comment.

South Florida's hospitality industry has dreaded the possibility of Zika spreading to Miami Beach because the region's economy relies heavily on its $24 billion-a-year tourism industry. More than half of the hotel rooms in Miami-Dade are in Miami Beach.

Starting Thursday morning, Miami Beach public works officials and code compliance officers were dispatched to neighborhoods to inspect for mosquito breeding sites.

City Manager Jimmy Morales said in a written statement that the city is in constant communication with the health department regarding the most effective approach to mosquito control.

"Our strategy has been and will continue to be focusing on the elimination of potential breeding sites and educating our residents and businesses on what they need to do," Morales said in the statement. "We are also working with the county and they are also inspecting and as needed mitigating through techniques like clean ups, larvicides and fogging."

The first area in the continental United States with ongoing Zika transmission was identified by Gov. Rick Scott on July 29, when he announced that the virus was being spread by local mosquitoes within a 1-square-mile zone north of downtown Miami in the Wynwood neighborhood.

At least seven new local cases of Zika have cropped up outside of that zone in Wynwood since then, however, including one in Southwest Miami-Dade.

On Wednesday, the health department reported three new local Zika infections in Miami-Dade, including one inside the Wynwood zone and two others outside of it.

A total of 557 people in Florida have contracted Zika this year, including 63 pregnant women. Of those, 33 are locally acquired cases, with all but seven traced to the Wynwood zone.

Epidemiologists continue to interview residents and collect blood and urine samples inside the designated zone, but they also have launched investigations into six Zika infections that occurred outside of that area. One is in Palm Beach, and the other five are in Miami-Dade. Health officials have not said whether they suspect any of the local cases were sexually transmitted.

Florida health officials have said repeatedly that one case does not mean active transmission is occurring in an area. Instead, health officials investigate each case by interview, and taking blood and urine samples from close contacts and neighbors around each person infected.

The Zika response plan published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June notes that "a starting point" for defining an area of local transmission is two or more infections (not related to travel or sex) among people who do not share the same household and which occurred inside a 1-mile diameter with one month.

Contact Daniel Chang at (305) 376-2012 and Joey Flechas at (305) 376-3602.

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