Zika outbreak prompts travel warning for area of Miami

According to the CDC, there have been over 600 confirmed Zika virus cases in the United States in addition to over 1,000 in USA territories, particularly in Puerto Rico. These cases mark what are likely the first occurrences of local mosquito Zika transmission in the continental United States.

The US state of Florida has identified 10 additional cases likely caused by local mosquito bites, bringing the total number of people with locally transmitted Zika to 14, the state's Governor Rick Scott said on Monday.

Schultz said Florida will be redoubling its vector control efforts in the outbreak area, which involves a 1-square-mile (2.6 square km) area in the mixed-use area north of downtown Miami.

Dr William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said there is concern that people infected in Florida will travel to other areas of the country where Zika could then be spread through local mosquitoes there.

At the same time, US health authorities have said they don't expect major outbreaks in this country, in part because of better sanitation and the use of air conditioners and window screens.

Dozens of pregnant women streamed into Borinquen Medical Center, a clinic just outside Wynwood where doctors said they were getting more and more nervous requests for Zika testing.

"We can find no similar recommendation in recent years", he told reporters on a conference call.

The area, known for bold murals spray-painted across warehouses, art galleries, restaurants and boutiques, is rapidly gentrifying and has a number of construction sites where standing water can collect and serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

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Frieden said most people with Zika do not show any symptoms.

Positive tests for people with suspected Zika infection increased from 14 percent in February to 64 percent in June in Puerto Rico.

Brazil has been hit particularly hard, with more than 1,700 babies born with unusually small heads, a key feature of microcephaly.

Frieden said it's possible mosquitoes are resistant to the insecticide being used, but it could take weeks for federal and state officials to figure that out. The tropical mosquito that spreads Zika travels less than 200 yards in its lifetime. Partners of pregnant women are advised to use a condom to guard against sexual transmission during pregnancy.

Over the weekend, public health officials in England began advising pregnant women to delay "nonessential" travel to Florida until after the pregnancy.

But he also said there aren't enough of the disease-transmitting mosquitoes living in and around houses to cause long-term or widespread outbreaks in this country.

Frieden said the decision to issue a travel warning is an unusual measure for the continental US.

"In Miami, aggressive mosquito control measures don't seem to be working as well as we would have liked", said Frieden.

  • Phil Peters