10 more people likely contracted Zika from Florida mosquitoes

Governor Rick Scott asks CDC to activate Emergency Response Team

By Stacey Readout - Assistant News Director

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Government health officials are warning that pregnant women should avoid travel to a Zika-stricken part of Miami and urging expectant mothers who frequent the neighborhood to get tested for the virus, after the number of people feared infected through mosquito bites in the U.S. climbed to 14.

In a warning issued Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said men and women who have recently visited the area should wait at least eight weeks before trying to conceive a child.

Officials announced four cases on Friday, believed to be first people to contract the virus from mosquitoes within the 50 states.

Ten more cases were announced Monday.

The Florida Department of Health believes that active transmissions of the Zika virus are still only occurring in a small area of Miami-Dade County, just north of downtown in the Wynwood Arts District (pictured below).

Among the 10 new patients announced Monday, six are asymptomatic and were identified from the door-to-door community survey that DOH is conducting. 

“Following today’s announcement, I have requested that the CDC activate their Emergency Response Team to assist DOH in their investigation, research and sample collection efforts," said Governor Scott. "Their team will consist of public health experts whose role is to augment our response efforts to confirmed local transmissions of the Zika virus."

The White House said the CDC team would be deployed to Florida "in short order."

Jacksonville response

Jacksonville Mosquito Control said it's not making major changes to its day-to-day operations, but will stay in closer contact with local and state agencies, such as the health department.

It said its number one priority right now is raising awareness and education in our community.

"We work very closely with the whole department who is good at giving us information, even if it's a suspect case, we assume worst-case and send our people out there immediately," said John Shellhorn, Division Chief of Jacksonville Mosquito Control.

Shellhorn said we still have mosquitoes that are 'pest mosquitoes,' which don't necessarily carry the virus, but ones they pay special attention to.

There are six confirmed cases of Zika virus in Duval County, all travel related. Shellhorn said Monday's news is a reminder for people to protect themselves.

"Remember, regardless of the virus, whether it's West Nile or Zika, you cannot catch the virus if you don't get bit," Shellhorn said. "Individuals need to think about protection, about using an EPA-registered mosquito repellent if they're going out in the evenings or the morning, going anywhere they can come in contact with mosquitoes."

Shellhorn said Jacksonville Mosquito Control is collecting mosquitoes and sending them to the state for testing. It's done that several times in the past few months and all tests have come back negative for Zika.

Click here for more information on Jacksonville Mosquito Control.

Testing

DOH has conducted testing for the Zika virus for more than 2,300 people statewide.

Since DOH began its investigation into possible local transmissions of Zika on July 7th, more than 200 individuals in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have been tested for the virus who live or work near the individuals that have already been confirmed with likely mosquito-borne transmissions.

Of the 14 individuals identified, two are women and 12 are men.

U.S. health officials do not expect widespread outbreaks of the sort seen in Brazil and Latin America. Although most people who get Zika don't know they're sick, infection during pregnancy can cause babies to be born with small heads and other defects.

The CDC has now issued a notice to women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant to avoid unnecessary travel to the impacted area that is just north of downtown Miami.

Wynwood Arts District

The Wynwood Arts District, home to more than 70 warehouses, art galleries, restaurants and boutiques, is rapidly gentrifying and has a number of construction sites where standing water can collect and serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

The travel warning covers an area of about one square mile in Wynwood to the east of Interstate 95 and south of Interstate 195.

Many walking the streets recently were unaware the virus had spread and confused about how the disease is transmitted.

Jordan Davison and Melissa Felix work for a cruise line and were enjoying their day off Monday looking at the murals in the neighborhood.

"It's not like a big thing right?" said 25-year-old Davidson. "It's kind of freaky - there's so much going on we didn't know, didn't really think about it ... I might wear bug spray going forward."

MAP & GUIDE: Wynwood Arts District

The district took over what used to be the warehouse and manufacturing district of Greater Miami, according to the Wynwood Arts District website.

The Wynwood Arts District Association has been legally operating since 2009. 

"With the introduction of the Second Saturday Art Walk in the District and the arrival of the Art Basel fair in 2002, Wynwood has seen some unexpected growth in a relatively short period of time as it gets more and more attention by the locals as the go-to place for an alternative and more cultural nightlife in the City of Miami," the Wynwood website said.

Resources

As directed by Governor Scott last week, DOH is working to ensure the impacted area has coordinated access to information and resources.

DOH has also begun the process to contract with commercial pest control companies to enhance and expand mosquito control, including increased spraying, in the impacted area.

Anyone seeking information on Zika can call the Zika Virus Information Hotline at 1-855-622-6735.

 

Copyright 2016 by WJXT News4Jax. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.