Zika concerns bring US Surgeon General to Miami clinic; 3 new Miami cases announced

MIAMI (WSVN) - U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy flew down to Borinquen Health Care Center to meet with pregnant women living in Wynwood, the Miami neighborhood where locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus have been contracted.

Murthy’s trip to Miami comes one day after the number of locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus climbed to over two dozen. On Friday, the Florida Department of Health announced three additional cases, bringing the number of locally transmitted cases to 28.

According to officials, of the three cases, two of the people infected got Zika within the perimeter. They are investigating more on how the third person contracted Zika and believe they may have gotten the virus outside of the Zika zone.

Although the Zika cases have been adding up, the Wynwood neighborhood is preparing for the busy Art Walk weekend. Friday night, foot traffic appeared to be picking up in the area.

“It’s wonderful to see traffic is building up,” said Miami Spice creator Steven Haas. “It’s wonderful to see people walking in the streets, and I think the fear has gone away.”

“I think it’s definitely picking back up, and that the public is becoming knowledgeable that businesses here are taking lots of precaution,” said Della Heiman, the owner of The Wynwood Yard, a food truck and outdoor activity space.

Officials said that they still believe all of the transmissions are in some way connected to the original Zika zone in Wynwood.

Murthy, who grew up in South Florida, said officials are working on a vaccine for the Zika virus. “If everything comes together well, our hope would be that within a year to 18 months we might be able to have a vaccine,” he said.

In the meantime, people, especially pregnant women and women who might be pregnant or plan on being pregnant in the near future, must take all precautionary measures to avoid contracting the virus.

“Make sure you’re wearing repellent and make sure you’re getting rid of stagnant water around your home,” said Dr. Vivek to a group of pregnant women at the clinic. “When folks don’t protect themselves from Zika and acquire the virus, then they allow mosquitoes to bite them and transmit the virus to other people, ’cause other people could be pregnant women.”

And most expecting moms living in the area have been doing just that. The moms who met with Murthy, Friday, had all been tested for Zika, and thankfully, tested negative.

“We always have to take cover because we have to protect our unborn child that is helpless,” said expecting mom Yolande Batista, who lives in the area. “I’ll do what it takes, no matter what. I have to do it to protect our first baby.”

Murthy wasn’t the only public official who came to South Florida to address the Zika emergency. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi visited Davie on Friday for a town hall meeting. “We will get through this,” she said.

Pelosi also spoke to business owners.

While Wynwood has been declared a “Zika hot spot,” the 500-square-foot cautionary area has dwindled down since the Florida Department of Health began studying cases in the area, giving locals a sense of relief.

There have also been aerial and ground sprays of powerful mosquito pesticide that have killed off mosquitoes in the neighborhood. As the sprays continue, another Zika hot zone has been cleared by the health department.

“That’s good, we can come back outside and get back to life,” said Damaris Gurvi, who lives in the Southwest corner of the Zika zone that has just been cleared from the map.

Rainbow Village apartments, within the southwest corner of the hot zone, has been deemed Zika-free.

The Wynwood neighborhood is trying to get back to normal, and are trying their best to keep everyone who attends Art Walk safe.

Feeding South Florida gave out insect repellent. “Our families are not only receiving healthy fruits and vegetables, but they’re also giving away mosquito repellant to maintain that health and wellness in the community,” said Paco Velez with Feeding South Florida.

But for the rest of Wynwood, business owners, residents, and visitors are making do despite the risk.

Businesses like The Wynwood Yard are fighting back with powerful mosquito-killing methods in order draw in business once again. “It turns our solution into a mist,” said an employee installing a nozzle for the system. “We don’t want to spray, we want a mist and aerate it as much as we can.”

Wynwood Yard has confirmed that one more employee has contracted Zika, totaling three employees, as of Friday afternoon.

If you are pregnant and have already been tested for the Zika virus, officials now advise you take the test again in your third trimester of pregnancy.

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