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Local Transmission of Zika By Mosquitoes Confirmed In Miami-Dade County

This is the area in Miami identified as having active Zika transmission.
Florida Department of Health
This is the area in Miami identified as having active Zika transmission.

The Zika virus is likely being transmitted by mosquitoes in a one-square-mile area just north of downtown Miami, the Florida Department of Health said Friday.

In a press release, the department said the suspected transmission area includes much of Wynwood and parts of Midtown and the Design District. It also said there's a "high likelihood" that four cases of Zika -- two in Broward County and two in Miami-Dade County -- were locally transmitted.

Florida is the first U.S. state to report locally transmitted cases of Zika.

Speaking at a press conference in Orlando, Gov.  Rick Scott said Florida has taken an aggressive approach in combating the virus and will continue to do so. "Just like with a hurricane, we have worked hard to stay ahead of the spread of Zika and prepare for the worst, even as we hope for the best," he said.

Scott said he requested that the Department of Health contract with commercial mosquito-control companies to increase spraying in the suspected transmission area. A press release on the governor's website says Scott has also requested that the health department provide additional funds for screening of blood donations, coordinate with doctors to distribute Zika prevention kits to pregnant women; work with schools to implement mosquito-control plans before the start of school on Aug. 22 and help provide $1.28 million in state funds for mosquito control in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

"I also ask every Floridian to take proper precautions by eliminating any standing water and wearing insect repellent," Scott said.

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration told Florida blood donation centers they cannot accept donations from Broward and Miami-Dade counties unless those donations have been screened for the Zika virus.

According to its press release, the Department of Health is conducting door-to-door outreach and testing urine samples as it continues to investigate the cases. During its investigation, the department has not yet captured any mosquitoes infected with Zika.

Matthew DeGennaro, a mosquito researcher at Florida International University, says it’s a good sign that Department of Health investigators have not yet caught any zika-infected mosquitoes. That means there aren’t that many mosquitoes that are infected. But DeGennaro also says it’s possible there will be more locally transmitted cases."If the area where an outbreak starts is not addressed and people don’t take steps to suppress the spread of the virus in that area, you could see that things could sort of spiral from that area," he said.


DeGennaro says the best way to prevent the virus’s spread is to limit contact with mosquitoes. He recommended wearing and frequently reapplying DEET-based mosquito repellent, and eliminating standing water.


"Drain the dog dish. Don't leave it out," he said.


The Florida Health Department confirmed three new travel-related cases of Zika on Friday, bringing the total number of travel-related cases in the state to 331. Separately, the department reported that 55 pregnant women in Florida have been infected by the virus, which has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly. 

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Kate Stein can't quite explain what attracts her to South Florida. It's more than just the warm weather (although this Wisconsin native and Northwestern University graduate definitely appreciates the South Florida sunshine). It has a lot to do with being able to travel from the Everglades to Little Havana to Brickell without turning off 8th Street. It's also related to Stein's fantastic coworkers, whom she first got to know during a winter 2016 internship.Officially, Stein is WLRN's environment, data and transportation journalist. Privately, she uses her job as an excuse to rove around South Florida searching for stories à la Carl Hiaasen and Edna Buchanan. Regardless, Stein speaks Spanish and is always thrilled to run, explore and read.