Aerial spraying over Wynwood continues amid growing number of Zika cases

MIAMI (WSVN) - Planes continued to spray insecticide over Wynwood on Saturday, one day after health officials confirmed a 16th non-travel-related case of the Zika virus in the Miami neighborhood, a number that, one senator believes, will keep rising.

This most recent case affected a person who is connected to someone who was diagnosed with the virus last week, according to officials.

“I think that one additional case just means that the virus is spreading, and that people need to be more aware,” said Natalie Rivas, who lives near Wynwood.

Friday night, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez spoke to 7News about the latest reported Zika case. “That person works in the Wynwood area. There’s a place in Wynwood that is the epicenter of it, and that person works at that place,” he said.

When asked to be more specific, however, the mayor declined to give any more details. “I really don’t know because I don’t want to violate any laws,” he said.

On Saturday, a small plane was caught on camera spreading chemicals over Wynwood in an attempt to kill mosquitoes that may be spreading the virus. “We are going to use it to kill mosquito larvae before they get a chance to become adult and start biting our residents,” said Frank Calderon, a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Department of Solid Waste Management.

The day before, about 100 ground crews with the Department of Health went door to door in Wynwood collecting for mosquitoes and testing for Zika.

Experts are now calling the mosquitoes “cockroaches” because they are proving hard to kill.

Senator Bill Nelson held a meeting with local mayors at Miami-Dade County’s Emergency Management Center, Friday morning, to discuss preventative measures against Zika and other issues.

At the meeting, Nelson said there are more cases of Zika in the United States that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have yet to uncover.

“The CDC also says that they know, for every case that they have detected, there are another three or four cases that they have not detected,” said Nelson. “Why? Because sometimes an infected person does not even show symptoms, so they don’t even know to go to the doctor.”

Nelson added there are nearly 28,000 expected cases in the United States and was upset that Congress had not reconvened from vacation to approve emergency funding in the fight against Zika.

Nelson said the focus remains on protecting pregnant women. “The trauma to a family that has a baby born with the shrunken head, you can imagine that trauma, but speak about the cost,” he said.

The senator said the birth defect caused by Zika, called microcephaly, results in about $10 million in health care costs per child, so it is critical for Congress to vote on more funding for a vaccine.

During a South Florida stop on Friday, Vice President Joe Biden echoed Nelson’s call for action. “The Congress can act. We have laid out in detail what we think needs to be done,” he said, referring to a proposal the White House presented to Congress that would allocate $1.9 billion to fight Zika.

Another topic of concern is traffic at Miami International Airport. There are reportedly 17 flights a day to and from Zika hot zones Puerto Rico and Brazil. “What’s the likelihood that you’re going to have passengers coming here that have been infected?” said Nelson. “I think that health officials will tell you it’s a high degree of likelihood.”

Miami-Dade County workers have said they will have signs at MIA to warn travelers of Zika.

7News caught up with a family visiting South Florida as they walked the streets of Wynwood, and they said the virus raises serious health concerns. “I have a daughter who’s in her mid-20s, and hopefully, at some point in time, she’s going to give me grand kids, and I’m very worried for her,” said Ramon Rivas.

On Thursday, officials announced that the northwest corner of the zone that encompassed 10 blocks has been eliminated. “This is a safe state,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott. “Let’s think about this: We have one square mile, one square mile north of downtown that we think we might have locally transmitted Zika.”

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado expressed his concern for Wynwood’s economy and said he has heard from business owners that, if this continues, layoffs are inevitable. “In the last three or four days, the businesses have seen their business cut in half,” he said. “Several national events have been canceled.”

Wynwood Kitchen employee Miguel Aguilar hoped for an uptick in business. “I’m optimistic that it’ll be a great weekend,” he said.

But it was not be. Saturday night, stormy weather and Zika concerns formed the perfect storm to keep crowds away. “Not a lot of people, a little quiet for a weekend,” said Amy Montenegro, who was visiting from Orlando.

Bars and restaurants took a considerable hit on what’s normally the busiest night of the week. “My friend was supposed to have her birthday party in the area, but she decided to move it because her friend is pregnant and she was worried,” said Miami resident Stefanie Cainto.

But even before the heavy rains came, local employees said business was down, including at Carlos Valera’s Gelato Gourmet in the Wynwood Farmers Market. “Normally, there are hundreds or thousands of people walking through the farmers market every Saturday,” said Valera.

A travel ban remains active by the CDC that calls for pregnant women and their partners to stay away from Wynwood. “It’s the first time in modern history we’ve issued a travel advisory in a part of the continental U.S.,” CDC director Tom Frieden said. “But it’s a very specific neighborhood.”

Business owners in Wynwood have scheduled a meeting on Monday where they will ask for emergency funding from the government to help them during this difficult time.

Local mosquito control officials told 7News they have made great progress and are seeing far fewer mosquitoes.

The aerial sprays of mosquito pesticide being dropped from planes will continue in the area throughout the weekend. If you would like to know about the chemicals being spread over Wynwood, click on this link.

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