MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday, during a press conference that the Zika advisory zone in Wynwood has been lifted.
Scott said the lift was made possible with help from the community, code enforcement getting rid of standing water and aggressive mosquito control efforts. “Today what we can announce, is that we’ve now been 45 days without a local transmission of Zika,” he said, “and so everybody should be coming back here and enjoying themselves.”
The governor has also authorized an additional $10 million to combat the virus. Meanwhile, health officials said new non-travel related Zika cases in Miami Beach led them to expand the local transmission area across 55 blocks, from Eighth Street to 63rd Street, as eradication efforts continue across the city.
In a press release issued on Friday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the Florida Department of Health identified five people in the expanded area. He said the two men and three women experienced symptoms within one month of each other.
The governor added that the DOH believes active transmission of Zika is occurring within a 4.5 square mile area, which includes some of the most popular and well-known hotels on Collins Avenue. The previous zone stretched across 1.5 square miles, from Eighth Street to 28th Street.
Scott said one of the cases was announced earlier this week, while investigations into the other four were completed on Friday.
All five individuals are non-travel related cases, according to Scott.
Friday night, a tourist visiting from London said he’s seen signs warning about Zika. “I was in Walgreens yesterday, they’ve got all sorts of signs up about the sprays and the bands, I think they’ve got as well,” Sonny Coleman said.
The announcement did not appear to deter beachgoers from soaking in the sun in parts of the expanded hot zone, Saturday afternoon. “I’m not really concerned,” said tourist Tes Zwaagstra.
In a statement, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the newest update in Miami Beach “is not unexpected considering there is active transmission.”
Gimenez said that the county’s Mosquito Control team reported trap data, Thursday, that showed the number of mosquitoes found in traps had decreased since aerial spraying in Miami Beach began a week ago.
“These numbers tend to fluctuate, but we are seeing a similar mosquito-reduction pattern in Miami Beach to what we saw in Wynwood after we began a similar aggressive protocol,” Gimenez said in the statement. “It is still early in the treatment cycle in Miami Beach, and we will continue to monitor the mosquito trap data as we implement our next two cycles of aerial spraying in combination with larvicide treatment by truck through the end of September.”
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said there is no plan to expand aerial spraying, which resumed on Sunday. “There is no plan as of yet to expand the aerial spraying, according to Mayor Gimenez. I spoke to him on the phone [Friday] evening,” he said. “The aerial spraying will continue as planned only for Eighth to 28th Street.”
The insecticide being used, naled, has proven controversial, sparking protests outside Miami Beach City Hall. “Commissioners, listen to the people,” said one demonstrator during a protest earlier this week.
Many local residents said they are concerned about potential health impacts. “In Europe, it’s banned already, so why would you use it here?” said Jasmine Gauthier.
Meanwhile, doctors at the Philadelphia-based Wistar Institute are testing a Zika vaccine that has been approved for human trials. “Doesn’t grow, can’t replicate, can’t spread to other individuals,” said Dr. David Weiner with the institute.
The Food and Drug Administration will determine when and if this vaccine can be used by the general public.
Back on Miami Beach, vacation plans are well underway despite the threat. “I can see all the big signs with the warnings,” said Zwaagstra.
“I don’t care, actually,” said another beachgoer.
Officials said crews will be on the ground across the expanded hot zone to conduct spraying throughout the next week. However, naled will not be among the ingredients used.
The number of non-travel related Zika cases in Miami Beach is now 35; there are 93 such cases in Florida, including people who live outside of Florida but contracted Zika in the state.
If a mosquito carrying Zika does bite, it can take up to two weeks to cause symptoms like:
- 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.
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