Florida tackles Zika virus
MIAMI, Fla. - Florida health officials are now taking on the country's first Zika virus hot zone from the air, using planes to spray insecticide to kill mosquitoes in a one-square square area of the Wynwood neighborhood just north of Downtown Miami.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden says the aerial spraying is designed to knock down the mosquito population and create a safety buffer zone around this small area where 14 people have become infected with the Zika virus since late July.
"We've been asked, 'Why not all of Miami?'” Dr. Frieden says. “Well, there's no evidence that there's any Zika spreading elsewhere in Miami. There is evidence that it's spreading in this 500-square foot area, and that's where the effort is being focused now."
A major focus here is getting rid of standing water.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito an aggressive daytime biter thought to be the primary spreader of Zika, can breed in very small amounts of water, as tiny as a bottle cap.
So, crews are pumping water from storm drains, and inspectors are going door-to-door looking for standing water and talking to homeowners about how to protect themselves.
Florida Governor Rick Scott says the efforts appear to be working.
"We have some good news we feel comfortable in that one mile radius.” Scott says. “ We can take ten blocks in the northwest corner and say we don't believe there is any active transmission of Zika. So, from the state health department standpoint, we're very comfortable that we're not seeing any active cases there."
The Zika virus is most dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn babies, because it can cause severe birth defects and brain damage in babies born to infected mothers.
Governor Scott has ordered public health departments across Florida to provide free Zika testing for expectant mothers.
OBGYNs are handing out Zika kits with bug spray, tablets use to kill mosquitoes and condoms, since the virus can be sexually-transmitted.
And, Wednesday the CDC took the rare step of issuing a travel advisory, warning pregnant women and their partner to stay away from the Wynwood neighborhood.
"Zika is unprecedented,” says Dr. Frieden. “We've never before had a mosquito-borne disease that could cause a birth defect and that's why we take it so seriously. The key is to protect pregnant women."