New Zika Cases Prompt Fla. Travel Warning

     (CN) — A travel warning has been issued after more than a dozen people contracted the Zika virus from local mosquitoes around Miami, the Florida Department of Health reported Monday.
     After learning of the new cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning Monday, urging pregnant mothers who recently visited the area to get tested for Zika. The agency recommends that residents and visitors of the neighborhood should wait eight weeks before trying to conceive a child.
     Four cases were reported Friday and 10 more infections were found after health officials tested people in the area. A total of 12 men and two women are believed to have been infected in a Miami-area neighborhood.
     The CDC warning comes during a period of higher risk, as the primary vector of Zika, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is more active during summer months — posing a threat to Florida and other Southern states where the mosquito is found.
     “Florida has a proven track record of success when it comes to managing similar mosquito-borne viruses. We will continue to keep our residents and visitors safe utilizing constant surveillance and aggressive strategies,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. “While I encourage all residents and visitors to continue to use precaution by draining standing water and wearing bug spray, Florida remains safe and open for business.”
     Each of the cases resulted from mosquito infections around Wynwood, a rapidly gentrifying area north of downtown Miami that features art galleries, bars and restaurants that attract visitors from other parts of the city.
     In two of the cases, Wynwood was the only location where their paths intersected.
     “We apply the same criteria within and outside of the United States, and are working closely with the state of Florida and Miami health departments to provide preventive services, including mosquito control,” Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement.
     Though the Aedes aegypti mosquito can only travel about 492 feet, infected individuals travel much further and can potentially spread the virus to new areas.
     “While the mosquito has a relatively short life span, and the individual mosquito has a limit to how far it can travel, people do travel, people can be in the infected phase and travel to the area that the vector is present,” Mara Gambineri, director of communications for the Florida Department of Health, told Courthouse News.
     Following the announcement of the first four cases, federal and state health officials swept through the surrounding area conducting urine tests and brief interviews of local residents.
     “These community surveys are the first systematic assessment of individuals for possible asymptomatic Zika virus ever performed,” Florida’s Department of Health said in a statement. “Finding six asymptomatic individuals who were positive for Zika contributes to our understanding of the role these individuals may play in transmitting Zika.”
     Identifying whether an individual mosquito in the wild is carrying Zika has been challenging for health officials. Despite 66,000 confirmed cases of Zika infections and 1,687 confirmed cases of various brain-related congenital disorders, it took 13 months for researchers to find a mosquito carrying the virus.
     The new cases also contradict what many scientists had thought about the likelihood of local Zika transmission within the United States, as epidemiologists had stated that such cases would be unlikely or nonexistent.
     Adam Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, said Friday that despite cases of local transmission, widespread transmission is still unlikely.
     “Let’s be very clear about that, the opportunity for [mosquito] habitat in Florida, while Florida is a warm, wet, subtropical climate, is very different than the nations that have seen much, much higher incidence of Zika spread — largely because of higher standards of living in the state of Florida,” he said.

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