Frustration Mounts In Miami Over Spread Of Zika Virus

Aug 31, 2016
Originally published on August 31, 2016 6:31 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Parts of Miami have been seized by fear of the Zika virus. Since federal officials issued a travel advisory for Zika about a month ago, aggressive mosquito control measures have paid off. There have been no new cases in the first neighborhood where it was found - that's Wynwood - for three weeks, but Zika is now being transmitted in Miami Beach, and frustration there is mounting. NPR's Greg Allen has the story.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: At a community meeting on Zika this week, Miami Beach resident Amani Ayers had a question about a Zika map recently released by health officials.

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AMANI AYERS: Does the Zika mosquito or any mosquito and it's - have some kind of internal GPS where they know where to stop at 8th street or 28th street?

(LAUGHTER)

ALLEN: Ayers is referring to a box from 8th street to 28th street in Miami Beach where mosquitoes are believed to have been spreading the Zika virus. That's the second place in Miami where the CDC says Zika is being locally transmitted. For weeks health officials told pregnant women there was just one area in Miami pregnant women should avoid - a 1-square-mile area in the Wynwood neighborhood.

Joseph Magazine says his wife, who's five months pregnant, kept working outside in Miami Beach where she was bitten, she thinks, by a mosquito and developed a rash, a possible symptom of Zika. She was tested three weeks ago, and Magazine said they were told it may be another three weeks until they get the results.

JOSEPH MAGAZINE: I want to be out planning to go baby shopping, and I'm waiting to see if my wife who got sick with a rash after getting bitten by something on Miami Beach has Zika or not. And we can't get an answer for six weeks.

ALLEN: At the community meeting in Miami Beach, Magazine said he thinks drawing a map with a box around Wynwood sent a signal mistakenly that other areas outside of it were safe. Besides the two areas in Miami-Dade County where local Zika transmission has been confirmed, health officials are investigating several other areas in Florida where there are single cases of the disease.

Under CDC guidelines, it takes a second case to confirm Zika is being transmitted locally. Because of that, many in Wynwood like business owner Jessica Goldman Srebnick feel their neighborhood has been unfairly singled out.

JESSICA GOLDMAN SREBNICK: When you put a box around a neighborhood, in the box, you get this deep sense of fear. And outside of the box, you get kind of an inappropriate sense of, you know, oh, things are OK on this side of the street.

ALLEN: In the months since the map was released, Goldman Srebnick says revenues from many businesses are down by 50 percent.

TOM FRIEDEN: We understand how difficult it is for the businesses and residents within the areas where we've issued travel guidance.

FRIEDEN: CDC director Tom Frieden says although all the Zika cases in Wynwood were in a 500-square-foot area, it was necessary to set up a 1-square-mile buffer zone around that spot.

FRIEDEN: That buffer zone is approximately three to five times as far as a mosquito will fly in its life, so it gives you a sense of security and safety that it's not likely to be beyond that area.

ALLEN: Concerns about Zika have also led to tensions among elected officials. Local mayors in Miami and Miami Beach have been critical of the way Governor Rick Scott has handled the crisis - not sharing information or even inviting them to news conferences when critical announcements were made. Scott has aimed his fire at Congress and the White House for not agreeing on a Zika funding plan.

The CDC has sent $35 million to Florida but says unless Congress comes up with more money, it won't be able to provide the state any more funds to fight the disease. And Frieden says in South Florida's subtropical climate, the arrival of fall will not necessarily give the region a break from the disease.

FRIEDEN: If we look at dengue as an example, disease may continue well into October. And if you look at the Florida Keys as an example with dengue, it continued through an entire season into the next year.

ALLEN: There is some good news. In Wynwood, if no new cases are found, businesses have been told the travel advisory may be lifted by mid-September. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.