Local schools taking Zika preventative measures as classes resume

MIAMI (WSVN) - As students across Miami-Dade County prepare to head back to class, educators have a protection plan in place in the zones where active transmission of the Zika virus is taking place.

Zika prevention is now part of back to school preparations for thousands of Miami-Dade families. “Fight the bite,” said Florida Department of Health spokesperson Lilian Rivera. “We want to make sure that folks are not bitten by mosquitoes and that the children have all of the information that they need.”

Miami-Dade schools geared up for the first day of class as they do what they can to protect students and staff. “When transferring to classes, we don’t even know if we’re gonna get bit or not,” said student Gabriel Bynum. “That was my main concern today.”

At Miami Beach Senior High, Sunday, employees handed out mosquito repellent and encouraged students to cover up with long uniforms despite the heat.

“Better safe than sorry,” said Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “I know that we’re trading off comfort for protection, and I think that’s a fair deal.”

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At least six schools are located in or near the affected areas, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott will be in town on Monday to check out how the county is coping with the emergency. He is scheduled to tour Jose de Diego Middle School in Wynwood, the first area in South Florida identified for active Zika transmission.

Concerns about the mosquito-borne virus did not keep crowds away from Lincoln Road Mall this weekend. “I love Miami Beach, and I love the people, I love the area,” said visitor Oscar Rocha.

Local resident Raneem Ead also ventured out on Sunday despite health officials having confirmed five cases of the virus were contracted in Miami Beach. “No, I love South Beach, you know, but you have to take precautions, like try to always spray,” she said.

A 1.5 square mile area, from the Intracoastal to the ocean, and from 28th Street down to Eighth Street, were named an active transmission zone on Friday.

7News cameras captured Florida Health Department officials going door-to-door to keep the mosquito population in check, Saturday.

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“You have to get rid of all of the standing water, all of the containers in every property,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden.

Some regulars said they have seen a slight overall change in crowd volume in the tourist destination. “We’re finding parking in South Beach, which probably means people are scared,” said Ead.

On Friday, the CDC issued a travel advisory urging pregnant women and their partners to not only avoid the areas where the virus is being spread by mosquitoes, but simply to stay out of Miami-Dade County entirely, if possible.

The mosquito-borne illness has been linked to serious birth defects like microcephaly.

Now thousands of parents are adding Off! sprays and wipes, as well as other protective items, to their back-to-school routines. “My biggest concern with my youngest is that he has several allergies,” said Saraita Anderson, a mother of two.

Anderson said she is not taking any chances, even if it means starting school shopping all over. “Initially, we bought all shorts and short-sleeved shirts because we weren’t in the Zika zone,” she said, “and yesterday we were informed that we need all long sleeves, so today we’ll be getting everything long sleeve and long pants.”

A Health Department representative will be at every school in the affected areas on Monday to answer questions.

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