As Florida public health officials announced Miami’s Wynwood neighbourhood to be Zika-free this weekend, they affirmed that mosquito-borne transmission had spread through greater Miami Beach to an area encompassing its major tourist hotels and resorts.
The newly-expanded Zika risk zone now runs south from 61st street, along the Northern edge of La Gorce Country Club, to 8th St. at the southern end of South Beach; and from the Atlantic shore to the inland waterway, an area of 4.5 square miles embracing iconic hotels such as the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc.
The expansion of the Miami Beach Zika zone was announced after five new cases of locally-acquired Zika infection were identified among 3 women and 2 men in the newly-designated area. That brings the number of locally-acquired cases traced to Miami Beach to 35.
So far, a total of 93 non-travel related Zika virus infection cases have been identified in South Florida—all of them confined to the Wynwood and Miami Beach areas. Though some of the infected persons are known to reside in other areas, they were thought to have been infected in Wynwood or Miami Beach.
Florida Governor Rick Scott and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) have since announced the lifting of Zika travel advisories for Wynwood which over the summer became infamous as the first location in mainland U.S. to experience an outbreak of locally-acquired Zika virus infection. It was also the first area in the continental US for which the CDC issued warnings advising pregnant women or those who might become pregnant, as well as their partners, to avoid visiting. The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued similar warnings to Canadian travellers.
The decision to declare Wynwood Zika-free was a public health guideline requiring the area to be free of any reports of infection for at least 45 days.
In speaking to the press, Governor Scott attributed the freeing up of Wynwood to aggressive mosquito-control measures—including aerial spraying.
However, aerial spraying has met loud resistance in high rise Miami Beach where residents have taken to the streets with posters and bullhorns, arguing against spraying for fear of other health concerns—even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has cleared the active insecticide, harmless to humans in the diluted concentrations used.
Mosquito control crews continue ground spraying.
Warnings and Common Sense
Though hotels and other tourist venues in Miami Beach are complaining of a drastic drop-off in tourism this past summer due to Zika fears (the Fontainebleau hotel reports the worst three-week period in 15 years), public health authorities continue to stress that the proximal threat of Zika virus infection, which has been linked to microcephaly in newborns, is to women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant. And as the virus can also be transmitted by sexual contact, the partners of pregnant women are also urged to take appropriate precaution if they have recently travelled to active Zika zones.
But for other individuals, Zika is a minimal threat. Public health authorities note that 80 percent of people infected by Zika will experience no symptoms whatsoever. And those who do will likely find the symptoms—lethargy, rash, slight fever—quite manageable without any medical care beyond aspirin or acetaminophen.
Zika is not Ebola, nor SARS, nor malaria.
Moreover, as the weather in Florida cools and gets drier, mosquito populations tend to dissipate.
Heed the warnings. But keep them in perspective.
*Reprinted with permission of Travel Insurance File and Ingle International. September 20th, 2016