MIAMI – In a highly unusual travel warning, health officials advised pregnant women to avoid a part of Miami where mosquitoes are apparently transmitting Zika directly to humans.
Health officials last Friday announced that mosquitoes have apparently started spreading Zika on the U.S. mainland, citing four cases they strongly believe were caused by bites. Ten more cases were announced Monday, even though Florida authorities have yet to find any mosquitoes actually carrying the virus.
Of the 14 people infected, two are women and 12 are men. Eight patients showed symptoms of Zika, which can include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. The others had no symptoms. The disease is often so mild that most people don’t know they are infected.
All 14 cases are thought to have occurred in Miami’s Wynwood arts district, a trendy, fast-gentrifying neighborhood of warehouses, art galleries, restaurants and boutiques.
“It wasn’t mosquitoes that made it from a Zika area to this area, it was people who had the Zika virus in their body. They were bitten by mosquitoes from this area,” said Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Tom Frieden. “Those mosquitoes don’t continue to spread it to other mosquitoes, they spread it to people. So, it goes from a person to a mosquito to another person.”
Those in the travel industry are hopeful the CDC and Florida health officials can keep the virus contained to that area in Miami, because if it spreads beyond that, they’re concerned the casual attitude of travelers today could change markedly.
More than 1,650 cases of Zika have been reported in U.S. states. Nearly all have been the result of travel to a Zika-stricken country or sex with someone who was infected abroad, but now more than a dozen people have been infected in the U.S.
Florida health officials said they have tested more than 200 people in Miami-Dade and Broward counties since early July. An emergency response team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help Florida authorities investigate the outbreak, collect samples and control mosquitoes.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has for a CDC emergency team to help Florida combat Zika, which has been sweeping Latin America and the Caribbean in recent months and now may be gaining a long-dreaded foothold in the U.S. The White House said a team will be sent quickly.
“We will continue to keep our residents and visitors safe utilizing constant surveillance and aggressive strategies, such as increased mosquito spraying, that have allowed our state to fight similar viruses,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement Monday.
Government health officials warned pregnant women Monday to avoid the Zika-stricken part of Miami and told couples who have been there recently to put off having children for at least two months, after the number of people feared infected through mosquito bites in the U.S. climbed to 14.
The CDC also said expectant mothers should get tested for the virus if they have visited the neighborhood since mid-June.