Two Miami neighborhoods are struggling to contain an outbreak of the Zika virus. Last week five more were infected, bringing the total up to a staggering 36 cases.
Around 6,000 students are returning to schools in the infected areas this week. The schools are handing out free bug spray to help contain the disease, which is spread by mosquito bites.
The area has been trying to defend against the virus since February with little help from FEMA, reports Christina Mendez writing for NBC. Thus far, the federal government has given little to no assistance.
“We’re gonna continue to do our part. This is a national and international issue, but our state… We’re gonna show up, we’re gonna invest our dollars, we’re gonna make sure we have education, but everyone needs to do their part,” Says Rick Scott, Governor of Miami.
Protective clothing is also being offered to students in the Miami-Dade school district. Students are being encouraged to wear long sleeves and pants and to spray themselves with bug spray before classes.
David Begnaud, writing for WCTV, noted that the school districts efforts are being noticed. Carol Karp, the mother of a student, has said the schools are doing a fantastic and commendable job:
Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “I would not be surprised if we see cases in Texas, in Louisiana, particularly now where you have a situation with flooding in Louisiana.”
Dr. Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that current weather conditions are contributing to an increased risk of Zika virus. Nationwide the disease won’t be a concern, but in certain areas there is a high risk.
As Gillian Mohney of ABC News reports, some Miami residents don’t feel safe enough to stay in the state. Gigi Mains, a pregnant woman who was residing in Broward County, stated she would be moving out of Miami for the duration of her pregnancy. No cases thus far have been reported from Broward County:
Lillian Rivera, the spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health, said “We want to make sure that folks are not bitten by mosquitoes and that the children have all of the information that they need.”
While the growing concern for the Zika virus is the predominant focus, some are worried about related concerns. The principal for South Pointe Elementary was concerned that the bug spray would upset students asthma.
The Miami-Dade County school zone has 392 schools, reports Fox News. This makes it one of the largest districts in the U.S. with 345,000 students — and the combination of people and climate could fuel the spread of the virus:
Dr. Fauci stated, “When you have a sub-tropical, or semi-tropical region with the right mosquitoes, and individuals who have travel-related cases that are in the environment, it would not be surprising that we will see additional cases, not only in Florida, but perhaps in other of the Gulf Coast states.”
There is a growing concern that the outbreak will seriously damage Miami’s strong tourism industry. Phillip Levine, Miami Beach mayor, thinks the overall impact should be minor, with the city already trying to clean up potential mosquito heavy areas. Residents, however, remain concerned:
Ashley Beauegard, a Miami yoga instructor, said “I mean I just feel like it spread from Wynwood to Miami Beach, cases that we know of. So how many cases that we don’t know of could’ve spread further already?”
Some officials believe that the Zika virus might be around the United States for a year or two.