Community members react to Miami Beach aerial spraying; Broward spraying to begin Monday

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Aerial spraying took place in Miami Beach, Friday morning, to combat Zika.

The spraying did not happen without push-back from the community, as leaders and residents had protested the spraying for several days. 7News cameras captured demonstrators in front of Miami Beach City Hall holding up signs referring to Naled, the insecticide used on Friday, as “a neurotoxic poison.”

Concerned parent Jerry Morales said his son stayed home on Friday. “He loves school, but I’m going to tell him there’s some chemicals in the air,” said Morales. “We prefer for him to be inside, just for today.”

A Miami-Dade County Public Schools robocall was sent to residents, Thursday, giving them prior notice of the aerial spraying. The call advised those with allergic reactions to stay indoors from 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., when both spraying sessions took place.

Fienberg-Fisher School’s PTA President and parent Stewart Turner believes the spraying creates an uneasy environment in Miami Beach. “I don’t think it’s safe, honestly,” he told 7News on Thursday. “The school is right in the spray zone.”

School officials said they kept children inside and excused tardiness for parents who wanted to bring kids to school late.

One parent, Daphne Damas, said her daughter was on time for school. The young student said she feels “better” about the spraying and that officials have planned for more of it.

Damas admitted that she doesn’t know much about the spraying, but that she will continue to take precautions when walking her daughter to school. “I do put the bug spray on her,” said the mother. “I keep her leggings on, so I keep her safe.”

Many have questioned whether the benefits of the spraying outweigh the risk, and some have said, “yes.”

“They need to do something about it,” said parent Angel Vallaeres. “This is something they need to take care of.”

“As of now, whatever can keep her safe, I’m all for it,” said Damas.

Parent Candice Parker said the spraying must be done. “Why are they being paranoid? It’s done anyway, so the kids need to go to school.”

“To be honest with you, I think the people are overreacting,” said a passerby.

Friday afternoon, Miami-Dade Public Schools said there was a slight dip in attendance within the hot zone. Nevertheless, Feinberg Fisher K-8 in Miami Beach was 89 percent occupied.

Officials have announced another aerial spraying session on Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, the fight to prevent Zika is ramping up in Broward County. Over the last few weeks, crews have been testing and spraying in cities across the county.

County officials held a press conference to talk about further prevention efforts against the virus.

While there are an estimated 105 travel-related Zika cases in Broward, no active transmissions have been reported, and no adult mosquitoes carrying the virus have been found.

Officials have decided to use BTI, an organic chemical, throughout sections of the county, beginning on Monday morning, between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.. The spraying will cost roughly $300,000, which is money found in their general fund.

The spraying in Broward will be used to primarily kill larva, in contrast with the fight to eradicate adult mosquitoes that is taking place in Miami-Dade. “This product is an organic, naturally occurring material that is used to kill the larvae,” said Broward Mosquito Control Director Ahn Ton. “Completely different methods of combatting Zika. Fortunately, because we can be preventive, we’re going after the larvae before they become full-blown mosquitoes, because we’re not in the same situation.”

Cities in Broward that will be sprayed on Monday morning are:

  • Hallandale Beach
  • Margate
  • Pembroke Pines
  • Hollywood
  • Tamarac

Ton said these cities are areas where mosquitoes are present and travel-related cases have popped up. “The combination of those factors and in consultation with the Health Department, those locations were selected,” he said.

Prevention efforts in Broward have an estimated cost of $300,000 to date. County commissioners recently voted to pull the money from the general fund.

Broward County Mayor Marty Kiar said the expense is worth every penny if it keeps residents safe from Zika. “We are willing to give them whatever resources they need, so that $300,000 was what they requested,” he said, “but if they come back and request more, I’m pretty confident we’re going to give it to them.”

However, CDC Director Tom Frieden announced on Friday that funds to combat the virus are running low. “We are now essentially out of money,” he said.

Dr. Frieden also warned that the U.S. is “about to see a bunch of kids born with microcephaly,” a condition linked to Zika that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads.

So far, a total of 56 locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus have been discovered in Florida, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced the latest Zika zone, a 1.5 square mile area in Miami Beach, on Aug. 19. The first U.S. hot zone for locally transmitted cases of Zika was identified in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, in late July.

The mosquito-borne illness is especially dangerous for pregnant women and has been linked to serious birth defects. The CDC has issued a travel advisory for pregnant women to avoid the Zika hot Zones in Miami-Dade County.

If a mosquito carrying Zika does bite, it can take up to two weeks to cause symptoms like:

  • fever
  • headache
  • skin rash
  • joint pain
  • conjunctivitis, which causes red, irritated eyes

The State Surgeon General has activated a 24-hour Zika hotline in Florida to answer questions and concerns. That number is 855-622-6735.

Pregnant women can receive a free test at the Health District Center, located at 1350 N.W. 14th St. in Miami. For more information, call 305-324-2400.

As of Friday, the Florida Department of Health reported no new cases of the virus in the state.

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