(WSVN) - A little known mosquito-borne illness became big news in 2016, after it started spreading around the globe, and in the U.S., parts of South Florida became Ground Zero. 7’s Belkys Nerey has a look back at the Zika virus, in tonight’s edition of “7’s Top 7.”
The images, tragic. Hundreds of babies born with a major birth defect in Brazil. Health officials say the cause: Zika. The condition is called microcephaly. It’s believed to stop development of the brain in babies of mothers infected with the mosquito borne virus and result in a child being born with a small head.
Zika quickly spread through the Caribbean, as U.S. officials feared it could come here.
Josh Earnest, White House Press Secretary: “There certainly are reasons to be concerned about this disease.”
And it did. Hawaii had the first case of a baby born with microcephaly in January. By February, the virus was here in South Florida.
Florida resident: “Little things like mosquitoes, no one really thinks tat they’re harmful, but they actually are.”
Nine cases of Zika were confirmed. Four of those in Miami-Dade County. All from people who traveled to countries where the disease was being transmitted.
But state officials worried it was only a matter of time until it was transmitted by mosquitoes here at home.
Then, in July, South Florida’s worst fears were realized: the first four cases of local transmission were found in people who had not traveled out of the country.
President Barrack Obama: “Now, we had the first local transmission in Florida, and there will certainly be more.”
Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency. The area’s first Zika zone — Wynwood.
Governor Rick Scott: “This means Florida has become the first state in the nation to have local transmission of the Zika virus.”
An international travel advisory was put in place for a one-square mile area of Wynwood, and pregnant women were encouraged to avoid the area.
Official: “It’s the first time in modern history we’ve issued a travel advisory about a part of the continental U.S.”
As local Zika cases continued to climb, businesses in the Wynwood area started taking a financial hit.
Trina Sargalski, Wynwood Yard spokesperson: “The Wynwood Yard, in an abundance of caution, has temporarily closed today.”
Then, in mid-August, another Zika zone was declared in Miami Beach, forcing the Miami Beach Botanical Garden to close, and, for the first time, local mosquitoes tested positive for the virus.
Officials, made the controversial call to spray a chemical called Naled from the air.
Angry resident: “I can get a postcard in the mail about who’s up for re-election, but I can’t get a postcard in the mail that you’re gonna spray poison on me?”
Frustrations boiled over and protests erupted…
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez: “I don’t want to do this. I would hate to be the person that allowed Zika to run rampant in Miami-Dade County.”
But, after a year of mounting fear and nearly 4,600 cases of Zika in the U.S., by mid-September, authorities declared Wynwood Zika free.
Gov. Rick Scott: “We had an issue, everybody took it seriously and resolved it.”
And just before Thanksgiving, news everyone could be thankful for: the World Health Organization announced the Zika virus was no longer considered an international health emergency.
Residents got more good news early in December, when Miami Beach was cleared of the virus.
Gov. Rick Scott: “What’s exciting today, is the South Beach area now does not have any local transmission of Zika, and that’s a very good day for our state.”
Tomorrow on 7’s Top 7, we take a look back at the top stories in the sports world this year.
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