Florida announces Zika case hundreds of
miles from Miami
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[August 24, 2016]
By Julie Steenhuysen and Letitia Stein
CHICAGO/TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - Florida
officials on Tuesday announced the first case of Zika transmitted by
mosquitoes in Pinellas County, located some 265 miles (425 km) from
Miami, where the first locally transmitted U.S. cases were reported.
Steve Huard, acting spokesman for Florida Department of Health in
Pinellas County, said the case involves a woman without a significant
travel history, indicating the virus was contracted locally.
He did not know the timeline on the case, only that it had been
confirmed within the past day. He did not have any more details on the
"At this point, it's a single case. It’s a one-off,” Huard said. “We
don’t know where it originated, and we are doing appropriate testing and
Florida Governor Rick Scott said the state department of health has
begun door-to-door outreach in Pinellas County, testing individuals to
find other cases.
Pinellas County is home to St. Petersburg, Clearwater and a number of
Gulf Coast beaches that are popular tourist destinations.
Scott said the health department and Pinellas County Mosquito Control
have begun "aggressive spraying and mosquito abatement efforts," and he
said any pregnant woman who wants a free Zika test or a Zika prevention
kit should contact the health department.
The Zika virus was first detected in Brazil last year and has since
spread across the Americas. The virus poses a risk to pregnant women
because it can cause severe birth defects. It has been linked to more
than 1,800 cases of microcephaly in Brazil.
Federal health officials on Friday warned pregnant women not to travel
to Miami Beach after Florida confirmed that the mosquito-borne Zika
virus was active in the popular tourist destination, becoming the second
area in Miami to be affected after Wynwood.
Mara Gambineri, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health said
the department believes ongoing local transmission is only occurring in
the small areas identified in Miami-Dade County.
On Tuesday, Florida announced four new cases of Zika in the Wynwood
neighborhood, where officials have been aggressively spraying for the
mosquitoes that carry the virus for weeks. Florida has so far reported
42 cases of locally transmitted Zika.
Gambineri said in an email the cases of individuals in Wynwood
experienced Zika symptoms in mid-July, prior to the start of an aerial
spraying campaign. Gambineri said the cases were only announced today
because the individuals required antibody testing to rule out other
mosquito-borne illness, such as dengue and Chikungunya.
CLOSELY MONITORING NEW CASES
In a conference call on Friday, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the CDC does expect to
see occasional cases of local transmission, which is what experts have
seen with outbreaks of dengue and Chikungunya.
In those outbreaks, for every 9 or so one-off cases, there was one new
cluster of local mosquito-borne transmission, but he said, "The vast
majority of local transmissions hit a dead end after one or two people
in one household."
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Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen inside Oxitec laboratory in
Campinas, Brazil, February 2, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File
Frieden said the CDC is closely monitoring new cases in the Wynwood
neighborhood to see whether their mosquito control efforts - which
have included aerial spraying of pesticides to kill adult mosquitoes
and mosquito larvae - are working.
Mosquito control experts in Pinellas County are not planning the
type of aerial spraying campaign underway in Miami-Dade County.
Local officials said they believe ground-level efforts will be most
effective against the type of mosquito that transmits Zika, which
can breed in small containers.
Rob Krueger, an entomology and education support specialist with
Pinellas County Mosquito Control, compared aerial spraying to
dropping golf balls on a football field. While chemical droplets may
get close to the mosquito habitat, there is no way to know that
every possible breeding spot has been reached through a diffuse,
“Our method is strictly boots-on-the-ground, and going door to door
to make sure that we can find every Aedes aegypti mosquito that is
out there and eradicate it,” Krueger said.
He said mosquito control districts in Florida have flexibility to
use the approach and chemical agents best suited for the local
population and financial resources. Pinellas, which is Florida’s
most densely developed county, does not typically use aerial spray
products against this type of mosquito.
Krueger said there is no "magic bullet" for eradicating Aedes
aegypti. What it is going to take is "going door to door, fixing it
as we go.”
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious diseases expert at the University of
Pittsburgh Medical Center, said Florida needs to make it clear that
"anywhere these mosquitoes are present is at risk.”
Adalja said while knowing the exact area of transmission is
important for issuing travel warnings to pregnant women, he said the
entire state needs to be vigilant.
Adalja expects multiple counties in Florida will be affected, as
well as areas in Texas and Louisiana, though these outbreaks will be
limited to discreet areas.
(Additional reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington; Editing by Paul
Simao and Bernard Orr)
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