Aerial spraying of insecticide over Wynwood killed large numbers of the mosquitoes capable of spreading Zika virus, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday as he lifted the state’s public health alert for a portion of the one-square-mile zone in Miami identified as the nation’s first area with active transmission of the disease.
State officials concluded that no mosquitoes are spreading the disease in a 10-block area in the northwest corner of the designated zone, though the public health alert advising pregnant women to avoid the rest of the Wynwood area remains in effect as epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitor the area for Zika virus.
“We’re very comfortable that we’re not seeing any active cases there,” Scott said of the 10-block area cleared of Zika transmission.
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CDC Director Tom Frieden, who spent Thursday touring the Wynwood area with Scott, State Surgeon General Celeste Philip and elected officials, said he was “very encouraged” by the initial results of aerial spraying.
“But,” he said, “this is going to take an intensive effort. It's a complex area.”
Neither Frieden nor Scott provided a number or ratio of mosquitoes killed by aerial spraying of the insecticide Naled over Wynwood early Thursday. But Chalmers Vasquez, Miami-Dade’s mosquito control manager, said all of the insects found inside the 16 traps placed throughout the designated zone were found dead.
“Traps were 100 percent kill,” he said. It was unclear, however, whether the large numbers of mosquitoes were killed by the aerial spraying alone or a new chemical that county workers are using for hand spraying on the ground, a class of insecticide known as pyrethrins.
This is going to take an intensive effort.
CDC Director Tom Frieden
Frieden said he would not be surprised if new Zika cases are reported inside of what he described as a 500-square-foot area at the center of the designated zone. “That’s the way Zika works,” he said, explaining that the one-square-mile zone included a precautionary buffer.
But at least one new local Zika case is under investigation outside that area, and Philip confirmed the health department has been interviewing people and collecting blood and urine samples from residents in Southwest Miami-Dade.
Scott vowed that Florida would continue to combat the spread of Zika virus with aggressive spraying and testing for new cases, even if Congress fails to approve emergency funding first requested by President Barack Obama in February. Congress recessed in July without resolving the request.
“We’ll continue to fund to do the right thing in the state,” said Scott, who allocated $26.2 million in Florida funds for Zika preparedness efforts in June. “Our hope is that the federal government will do the same thing. … If they don’t, the state is going to do funding. We have significant resources.”
Florida also has received more than $8 million in Zika-specific funding from the CDC, and Frieden noted on Thursday that the federal health agency has also provided about $27 million in emergency preparedness funding that can be used for Zika response.
The federal dollars are used to fund the health department’s efforts in each county, including epidemiologists, planners and laboratories and equipment, said Philip, the state surgeon general. The state dollars are distributed by the Florida Department of Health to counties and cities according to their needs as identified over the past several months, she said.
Miami-Dade, which reported two new travel-related Zika cases on Thursday, has confirmed 105 people who have contracted the disease this year — most in the state. And on Wednesday, the county set a new record for mosquito complaints received from residents with 1,300 phone calls, said Vasquez, the mosquito control manager.
Yet Miami-Dade has received just $300,000 from the state to combat Zika, and those dollars arrived within the last month, said Alina Hudak, a deputy mayor for Miami-Dade.
$300,000 State funding received to date by Miami-Dade County to combat Zika.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who on Thursday called for a special meeting to coordinate state and local response to Zika, said she was disappointed that the county has received so little.
“We’re ground zero for Zika,” Cava said. “$300,000 is wholly inadequate.”
Hudak said she could not identify how much money Miami-Dade has spent on mosquito control this year beyond the budgeted $1.6 million, which includes a full-time staff of 12 inspectors. But the county has spent additional funds to hire more inspectors, she said, and now has about 100 workers dedicated to mosquito control.
“We’ve spent a lot of money this week,” Hudak said referring to increased efforts to stamp out mosquitoes in the Wynwood area, including aerial spraying.
Philip said Miami-Dade was the first county in Florida to receive the state’s Zika funds, and that it has received the most, though she could not provide a list of allocations by county.
She said Miami-Dade is slated to receive an additional $740,000 in state funds paid in installments through December to help with Zika preparedness and response. But that funding was determined before Miami-Dade became the first place in the nation with local Zika transmission. Over the last week, health officials have identified 15 locally transmitted cases of Zika in Miami-Dade and Broward. Most of the 15 cases came from the Wynwood area.
Philip said she met with Miami-Dade officials this week to assess their latest needs.
“Now that we’re in response mode,” Philip said, “the needs are different. … We want to make sure they have what they need.”