CDC Issues Zika Travel Warning for Miami Neighborhood

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

The CDC has issued an unusual travel warning that advises women who are pregnant and their partners not to enter a small neighborhood north of downtown Miami where the Zika virus has been circulating. This announcement is the first warning the CDC has made concerning travel to a US neighborhood because of the possibility of being exposed to an infectious disease.

CNN’s Sandee LaMotte writes that because ten more people in Florida have been infected with the virus after being bitten by mosquitoes in the area, the CDC found cause to issue the warning. These ten bring the total to 14.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden and Florida Gov. Rick Scott both held news conferences during which they announced the development. The new cases were found through surveys of 200 people in their businesses and homes. Blood and urine samples were taken and tested for the virus and identified those who were positive.

Toward the end of last week, Florida health officials announced that four people had tested positive for Zika from mosquitoes from the same one-square-mile space. The area has upscale and low-income homes and businesses. Frieden says this fact complicates mosquito control applications.

“New test measurements over the weekend showed a risk of continued active transmission in that area,” Frieden said. “Because of this finding, we are advising pregnant women not to travel to that area and if they have traveled there on or after June 15 to visit their health care provider for testing.”

Frieden adds that June 15 is the earliest day the mosquitoes could have passed the virus. The insects obtained the virus by biting someone who returned to the US having contracted the disease in another country.

“With 40 million travelers to and from areas where Zika is actively circulating, many can come back who feel perfectly fine,” Frieden said. “But the virus could be hitchhiking in their blood. That’s why everyone who travels to one of those areas should use insect repellent for at least three weeks after they return.”

Precautions recommended by the CDC because of the Miami outbreak include announcing that pregnant women who live or travel to the area should be tested for the infection in their first and second trimesters whether they have symptoms or not.

Mosquito bites should be prevented, and sexual protection should be used by male and female partners who live in or travel to the area for the entire length of the pregnancy. It is suggested that women wait eight weeks to conceive if there has been travel to the area, and men with symptoms should wait a full six months.

Gov. Scott requested that the CDC start their emergency response team and allow them to partner with the Department of Health’s investigation, review, and sample collection efforts.

On Tuesday, the existing 12 inspectors were increased to 32 who will visit breeding locations and spray them with backpack foggers or other mosquito treatments. Public Works and Waste Management spokesperson Gayle Love said more workers would be added if necessary.

Jenny Staletovich and Alex Daugherty report for the Miami Herald that the school district used its robo-call technology to warn families with a total of roughly 355,000 school children to be cautious. These calls began at the start of mosquito season in June.

The mosquito that carries Zika, the Aedes aegypti, is not killed by aerial or truck spraying, so the best way to combat them is spraying at the source.

The Daily Beast reports that all pregnant women in the US should be tested for exposure to the Zika virus, according to the CDC. Officials in Florida have advised pregnant women to avoid the Wynwood neighborhood. The Florida cases are the first to occur on the US mainland.

Dean of Rosen College of Hospitality Management Abraham Pizam said the travel warning might affect tourism for a short amount of time, but the diverse range of tourists who come to Florida, other than pregnant women, would probably not be reticent to visit the Sunshine State.

The New York Times’ Pam Belluck says that Frieden said the mosquitoes in the area would be tested for their levels of resistance to the insecticides being used. Most of the chemicals that are available are not effective against Aedes aegypti.