Aerial Spraying to Begin Near Miami Targeting Mosquitoes in Response to Zika Outbreak

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The mosquito Aedes Aegypti as seen through a microscope. The main culprit in the spread of Zika as well as other viruses. (Credit: Miguel Castro/CNN)

As the Zika scare ramps up in south Florida, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said authorities will target 10 square miles north of downtown Miami to combat the virus.

Citing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which issued a travel warning Monday — and the Florida Department of Health, Gimenez said the mosquito control team would start spraying the area, which includes the Wynwood neighborhood, by Wednesday morning.

“I ask all residents to continue to do their part by draining standing water, protecting ourselves and our families by using mosquito repellant and covering up when going outdoors, especially during early morning and evening hours,” Gimenez said Tuesday.

The Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly, which causes unusually small heads and brain damage, in children born to infected mothers, as well as to blindness, deafness, seizures and other congenital defects.

In adults, the virus is linked to a form of temporary paralysis called Guillain-Barré syndrome.

The mayor said the aerial spraying is to head off a future danger, noting that the number of cases of the disease is small. The state health department has found 15 locally acquired cases in a population of 12.7 million.

That number is up from four confirmed cases Friday.

The health department has tested more than 340 people in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, finding at least seven people who were positive for the virus but asymptomatic.

The CDC recommends women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant and their sexual partners postpone travel to areas with widespread Zika infection.

It noted that while the Florida outbreak is “not considered widespread,” the area should still be avoided.

Experts say most Zika infections are transmitted by mosquitoes, but sexual transmission has been reported in a handful of cases.

“If you are pregnant and must travel or if you live or work in the impacted area, protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing insect repellent, long clothing and limiting your time outdoors,” the CDC said.

Florida health officials have been monitoring 55 pregnant women with evidence of Zika, regardless of symptoms.

The Food and Drug Administration is playing is calling for a halt of blood donations in the area. The Zika virus can be spread by Aedes aegypti mosquito bites, sex and blood transfusion. Zika can also be found in human urine, semen and saliva.

The state has been making preparations to combat disease since travel-related cases emerged.The battle time line includes:

• February 3, Gov. Rick Scott ordered a declaration of a public health emergency for the counties of residents with travel-associated cases of Zika. Included were: Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Duval, Escambia, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Santa Rosa, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Volusia.

• April 6, Scott had a conference call with the interim State Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip and Florida Mosquito Control Districts to discuss preparations to fight the possible spread of the virus.

• May 11, the governor requested 5,000 Zika preparedness kits from Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and a plan from FEMA on how resources will be allocated to states in a Zika emergency.

• June 23, Scott announced he will use his executive authority to allocate $26.2 million in state funds for Zika preparedness, prevention and response in Florida.

• June 28, the department announced the first confirmed case of microcephaly in an infant born in Florida whose mother had a travel-related case of Zika. The mother of the infant contracted Zika while in Haiti.

• July 1, the CDC had a call with 120 Florida medical professionals, including OB/GYNs, pediatricians and physicians specializing in family medicine, to discuss neurological impacts of Zika and what precautions new and expecting mothers should take.

•July 29, Scott announced enough information had been gathered in Miami-Dade and Broward counties to conclude that a high likelihood existed that four cases are the result of local transmission. The department said it believes active transmission of the Zika virus is occurring in one small area in Miami-Dade County, just north of downtown.

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