Ten more people are believed to have contracted the Zika virus through a mosquito bite, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a travel warning for the affected area.
On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott announced the Department of Health identified 10 more people who contracted the virus locally. The governor said the state health department still believes the transmissions are occurring in one part of Miami, but warned women who are pregnant — or are thinking of becoming pregnant — to avoid the area.
The news comes just days after the state announced our people — one woman and three men — likely contracted the virus from local mosquitoes. Health officials believe the infections are occurring within the popular Wynwood neighborhood.
Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the agency is sending an Emergency Response Team to South Florida to assist the Department of Health with its investigation into the spread.
Frieden said the CDC has also issued a travel warning, encouraging pregnant women to avoid unnecessary travel to the one-square mile area. Women who live and work in the affected area, Frieden said, should “make every effort to avoid mosquito bites.”
“While we continue to learn more about this virus each day, we know that it is most harmful to pregnant women and their babies,” said Scott, who then urged women who are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, to contact their doctors for a Zika prevention kit.
The CDC did not issue an advisory last week, when the first cases of locally transmitted Zika were identified. However, Frieden said mosquito control efforts in the impacted area “don’t appear to be as effective as we hoped,” and new cases prompted the federal agency to issue the advisory.
The Department of Health began investigating the possibility of a local transmission on July 7. According to the Governor’s Office, 2 of the people who contracted the disease are women; while 12 are men.
The state has allocated $26.2 million to help fight the spread of Zika, and Scott said the federal government has promised to send $5.6 million to help the cause. Mosquito boards across the state are doing what they can to help curb the spread, but the governor said Floridians also need to do their part.
“These mosquitoes are either in your house or close to your house, they don’t travel very far and they’re not active biters,” said Scott in an interview with FloridaPoliticis.com on Monday morning. “You can have an impact yourself, and that’s what we’re all going to do.”
Scott said Floridians should make sure to pour out standing water, and wear insect repellent and protective clothing when going outside.
Frieden said more cases of locally transmitted Zika could pop up. Many people who are infected don’t experience any symptoms, which makes detecting the spread of the disease difficult. While there may be more cases on the horizon, Frieden said he doesn’t expect them to be widespread.
That could be good news for Florida. The Wynwood area is a popular destination, and an extended travel warning could have an economic impact on the area. In a statement Monday, Scott said “Florida remains safe and open for business.”
“This year, we have already welcomed a record 30 million tourists and we look forward to welcoming more visitors to Florida this summer,” said Scott.
There are more than 380 cases of travel-related Zika in Florida; 55 of those cases involve pregnant women.