Palm Beach County has its first suspected local case of Zika, Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday.
The patient being investigated had recently traveled to Miami-Dade County, but it’s not yet clear where the virus was contracted. The Florida Department of Health, which does not release patient names or home addresses, has begun questioning neighbors while increasing mosquito control efforts in the area.
The new case brings the number of patients with locally acquired Zika to 17 in South Florida, with 15 of those in Miami-Dade County. Another 357 travel-related cases have also been confirmed around the state, including 106 in Miami-Dade and 20 in Palm Beach County.
While the news marks the first time a local case has been reported north of Broward County, officials say active transmission of the virus remains limited to a one-square-mile area in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood, where mosquito control efforts have intensified in recent days to wipe out the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits the disease.
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If their investigation finds any hint of another outbreak, state officials say they will notify the public.
Since the first local case was confirmed in Wynwood on July 29, during South Florida’s buggiest time of the year, Miami-Dade’s mosquito control division has upped the number of inspectors from 12 to more than 100 to respond to a flood of complaints, which reached nearly 1,300 in a single day last week.
Officials have twice misted a 10-square-mile area around Wynwood — which is just north of downtown Miami — with the most recent aerial spraying occurring before dawn Sunday. The urban mosquitoes, which fly low to the ground and feed exclusively on human blood, are notoriously hard to control. Unlike native marsh mosquitoes, the female biting mosquitoes are active during the day and can lay eggs in containers as small as a bottle cap.
State health officials on Monday also confirmed six new travel-related cases of the virus, with two more in Miami-Dade County, two in Hillsborough County, one more in Polk County and a first in Leon County. So far, 2,515 people across the state have been tested for the virus.
On Monday, Scott also announced plans to better prepare students and schools to combat the Zika virus with some districts starting the new year this week. In Miami-Dade, classes resume Aug. 22.
The state will begin sending mosquito repellent, normally not allowed on campuses, to all district and public colleges and universities in Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties as well as educational material. Nursery schools that offer the state’s free pre-kindergarten program will get information to distribute. The state will also provide training for local school nurses and health staff.
Earlier this year, Scott set aside $26.2 million to deal with Zika but has come under criticism for allocating too little. As of Monday, health department spokeswoman Sarah Revell said $18,648,817 had been promised to agencies around the state to enhance local mosquito control, expand contracts with contractors doing mosquito work, increase state lab capacity and provide more testing for pregnant women.
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Zika cases in Florida by county since Aug. 8
Number of cases (travel related)
Palm Beach **
Total cases not involving pregnant women
. . .
. . .
Cases involving pregnant women regardless of symptoms
* Counties of pregnant women not disclosed.
** Does not included suspected cases of local transmission.
Source: Florida Department of Health