New Zika Cases Extend CDC's Travel Warning to All of Miami-Dade County

by | August 22, 2016

By Adam Eisenberg and Selima Hussain

With Miami-Beach now listed as a local source of the Zika virus, federal officials are advising pregnant women and their partners who are concerned about the virus to avoid non-essential travel to anywhere in Miami-Dade County.

The warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is part of a wider travel advisory released after Gov. Rick Scott's announcement Friday that the Florida Department of Health has declared a section of Miami Beach between 8th and 28th streets to be a local transmission zone.

The Florida Department of Health identified the zone after the discovery of five new locally acquired cases believed to be tied to that area, Scott said.

The area is one of two known local Zika transmission zones in the mainland United States. The other is a 1-square-mile section of Miami's Wynwood neighborhood, identified earlier.

The CDC had previously advised pregnant women against traveling to Wynwood. The agency also advised pregnant women who have visited the designated area of Miami Beach since July 14, 2016, to contact their health care providers about being tested for the virus.

During his announcement, Scott also highlighted the state's prevention efforts, including mosquito spraying and public education, and announced expanded measures, including more spraying and a request to the CDC for 5,000 additional Zika testing kits and 10,000 additional Zika prevention kits.

"Just like when we learned of transmission in Wynwood, the county has already begun an aggressive mosquito eradication plan that includes additional spraying in Miami Beach," Scott said.

In a news conference Friday afternoon, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine expressed optimism about the county's efforts to combat the virus in his city.

"They're working aggressively. I know they started a couple of days ago. They were here at 6 a.m., early this morning. Our team was out there, we have inspectors out there, and we're doing everything we possibly can," Levine said.

Bill Talbert, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, also spoke at the news conference and said he was confident that Miami Beach's tourism industry could weather the Zika scare.

"The traveling public, if we can get that message out, will continue to travel here," he said.

As of Friday evening, Florida had 524 cases of Zika, including 488 travel-related cases and 36 locally acquired cases. The 36 locally acquired cases include one identified Friday outside of either of the two transmission zones, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Zika is a mosquito-borne illness that first emerged in the continental United States on July 29. The virus is primarily spread via mosquito bite but also can be transmitted sexually. The Florida Department of Health and the CDC advise people who have traveled to Zika hot spots to engage in safe-sex practices and use condoms, especially if they plan to conceive in the near future.

According to the CDC, Zika can lead to severe birth defects and microcephaly in an infant, a condition in which a baby's head is much smaller than expected. Because of the ramifications Zika can have for infants, the virus presents the biggest risk to pregnant women and expectant couples.

(c)2016 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)