Zika in South Beach: mosquitos test positive for the virus

Miami Beach Botanical Garden
Miami Beach Botanical Garden

Miami-Dade officials say they have trapped three Zika-positive mosquitos in Miami Beach. It is the first time that mosquitos carrying Zika have been trapped in the continental United States.

The mosquitos were trapped within a 1.5-square mile zone in South Beach. The Zika zone, from 8th Street to 28th Street, and from the ocean to the Intercoastal Waterway, encompasses Lincoln Road, Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, and is filled with hotels, restaurants and shops.

One of the mosquitos was found within the grounds of the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, adjacent to the Miami Beach Convention Center. The botanical garden was closed on Monday. At a news conference on Thursday at the county’s government center, city and county officials declined to identify the other two locations, citing privacy concerns.  

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the three traps were among 19 placed on Miami Beach and he said pregnant women should avoid the area. He said there are currently 42 cases of non-travel related Zika cases in Miami-Dade County with 73 other cases identified. As of Thursday there are a total of 696 cases in the state of Florida. Gimenez said the county has more than 100 crews covering the county every day carrying out eradication efforts.  

Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales says the discovery of the mosquitos was “not surprising and expected,” given the number of cases. He said there are no plans to call for restaurant owners on Miami Beach to close outdoor seating areas. One of the main areas of focus for city workers is eradicating Bromeliad plants, which he said serve as the perfect breeding area for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries the Zika virus. He said workers are fanning out all across the barrier island using trucks and backpack sprayers in a major effort to reduce the mosquito population.   

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In August, Standard and Poor’s, one of the nation’s largest credit-rating agencies, released a report saying that Zika’s impact on tourism could affect Miami-Dade’s bond rating in the future, because the industry provides a significant portion of the county’s tax dollars.    

But Bill Talbert, president of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, said so far that has not happened. He said data gathered for the week ending August 27th showed that revenue for hotels in Miami Beach was up.  

Still, officials say visitors coming to Miami over the Labor Day weekend should wear long sleeves, plenty of bug repellent and that pregnant women avoid areas where Zika has been identified. Officials also urged visitors and residents alike to practice safe sex, because the Zika virus can be sexually transmitted.    

Zika has already caused major disruptions for businesses in Wynwood with tourists and locals largely avoiding the area following a travel advisory issued by the CDC.

Meanwhile, two more cases of local Zika infections were reported by Florida health officials on Thursday, with one case reported from the 1.5 mile square zone transmission zone on Miami Beach and another reported from the transmission zone in Wynwood.