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Outcry over spraying to curb Zika

MIAMI BEACH — As Miami Beach works to blunt the spread of Zika — a virus that is taking a toll on tourism here — the city is wrestling with a separate predicament: a fast-growing outcry over the aerial spraying of naled, the pesticide used to kill adult mosquitoes.

Concerned residents and environmental protesters are coalescing around the issue of early morning naled spraying and raising concerns about its safety and efficacy. The activists want a two-week moratorium on the spraying, which has been done twice in the last two weeks, to see if there is a decline in the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry the virus, with the continued use of more conventional methods.

Naled, which is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, is supplementing the hand spraying and truck spraying of a different chemical intended to kill mosquito larvae.

Miami-Dade County, the only area in the country besides Puerto Rico with active local Zika transmission, is one of 29 counties under a state public health emergency. So far, the protests have failed to persuade the county or the state to alter plans to spray very low doses of naled across 1.5 square miles of South Beach, a densely populated area and Miami Beach's tourism hub. Another early morning spraying is scheduled for today and a fourth for next Saturday.

Protesters here are drawing inspiration from Puerto Rico, where Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla rebuffed pressure this summer from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to spray naled. Puerto Rico is now in the throes of an epidemic, with nearly 20,000 reported cases of Zika. As of Friday night, Florida had 93 cases of local transmission. The virus is particularly dangerous for pregnant women because it can cause severe brain abnormalities and other problems in fetuses.

"No one likes the aerial spraying. I don't like it. I don't want it. We have a choice. Do we become Puerto Rico, or do we eliminate or eradicate this virus?" said Mayor Philip Levine of Miami Beach.

But residents say the level of Zika mosquitoes in Miami Beach is not alarming enough to warrant continued use of naled. They argue that people are out and about in Miami Beach on weekends at 6 a.m., which is typically when the spraying occurs.