A trio of local politicians gathered in an Overtown church Thursday to promote awareness of the Zika virus to residents of Overtown and Little Haiti.
U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, along with Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson and Florida State Sen. Dwight Bullard, told members of both communities that they need to be more aware of Zika, which can lead to birth defects in newborn babies.
“We feel the constituents that we represent are not getting the message [about Zika],” Wilson told those gathered at St. John’s Baptist Church located on Northwest Third Avenue in Overtown. “We want to make sure that our communities of Overtown and Little Haiti know what to do.”
The group answered questions from local residents as did Helga Segura, a registered nurse from Jackson Memorial Hospital.
“We want to make sure that if our citizens are having sex that they use a condom,” Wilson said. “We’re finding that Zika is transmittable through sex just like HIV or AIDS. We’re all here today because we have pledged …to educate our community as to the danger of Zika.”
Wilson said the group distributed fliers on what steps to take to prevent contracting the Zika virus and would pass out mosquito repellent spray and wipes to members of the community, including the homeless.
Wilson also noted that federal funding to research Zika had stalled at a recent meeting in the House of Representatives, and hoped it would be taken more seriously at the next such meeting in September.
“When I was in Congress, in briefings we were being told Zika would be a problem,” Wilson said. “I never dreamed the epicenter would be in or near District 24. Zika is an evolving problem that requires scientific research, which no one has been able to isolate and say this particular problem exists or this particular mosquito or bite is Zika.”
Edmonson said Miami-Dade County had already begun spraying areas in Overtown and Little Haiti on Thursday morning. The county is spraying a 10-square-mile area focused on the Wynwood area and its surrounding neighborhoos.
“We are spraying and giving out the repellent and wipes to the homeless,” Edmonson said. “Even though there are no cases reported in Overtown, Wynwood is just a hop, skip and a jump away from here. So we’re here to pass around this repellent and talk to residents and make sure they are aware of what is going on.”