Health officials have identified four new local cases of the Zika virus likely contracted in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday.
All four cases probably came from mosquito bites in the area, the only site of active transmission in the United States. The cases bring the total number of locally transmitted cases in South Florida to 21. Officials believe transmissions are still limited to a small area that includes the arts district and Midtown.
“All four of these cases are located in the same, small area of Wynwood that is less than one square mile,” Scott said in a statement.
The trendy neighborhood packed with warehouses and art galleries has been the epicenter of the local outbreak. Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said most of the cases were likely contracted in an even smaller spot, about 500-foot radius from where the first cluster of cases was identified. But they have designated the one-square-mile zone at risk to account for the distance the Aedes aegypti mosquito can travel.
Businesses in Wynwood have been suffering as the flow of customers slowed down. The tax-funded Wynwood Business Improvement District held an emergency meeting Monday to call on local, state and federal governments to quicken efforts to clear their neighborhood of active infections.
On Tuesday, state health officials also confirmed the first travel-related cases of the virus in Monroe and Hernando counties. Altogether, 14 new travel cases were documented statewide, including four more in Miami-Dade, three in Orange County, one in Broward County and one in Lee County. Two involved pregnant women. There have been a total of 426 travel cases in Florida.
While aggressive efforts to control mosquitoes are under way, including aerial spraying and door-to-door visits from mosquito inspectors, health officials continue to warn pregnant women to steer clear of the area. County officials plan to spray a two-square-mile area in Wynwood at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The virus can be passed from mothers to their fetuses and cause birth defects, including microcephaly. On Tuesday, Texas health officials announced the death of a baby girl several weeks ago in Harris County from complications linked to microcephaly. The girl died at birth after her mother contracted the Zika virus in Latin America before moving to Texas. In Florida, 57 pregnant women have become infected.
Health officials do not consider Miami’s small cluster widespread transmission, but still say women should avoid the area. If women work in the area or must visit it, they advise wearing bug repellent, long sleeves or pants, and limiting time outside.
In Florida, Scott has promised to provide free testing to all pregnant women at county health departments. But on Tuesday he complained that federal health officials had still not responded to his request for an additional 10,000 Zika prevention kits for pregnant women “or a detailed plan on how they would like Florida to work with [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] on requesting emergency response funds since this has become mosquito-borne in our state.”
Scott set aside $26.2 million to fight the virus in late June, but has come under criticism for taking too long to dole out the money. He also suggested eliminating the special taxing districts that collect money to fight mosquitoes in about 18 cities and counties in 2012. On Tuesday, his office fought back, providing a breakdown of budgeting that showed he gradually increased state spending on mosquito control, from $1.3 million in 2011 to $2.8 million this year.
Scott also blasted Washington for continuing to stall on providing more money.
“Every day that passes that Congress and the president fail to come to an agreement hinders our national response to Zika,” he said in a statement. “This is not only an issue affecting us here in Florida — this is a national issue. Florida is just at the head of it with the first cases of local transmission of Zika. Just today, we learned that a baby born with microcephaly caused by Zika died in Texas — a heartbreaking tragedy in our country.”
In addition to the Wynwood cases, health officials are also investigating a South Miami-Dade County patient who contracted the disease locally. Nineteen people in the area have been tested with 16 coming back negative for the virus. Results are still pending on three others. Officials also confirmed the first local case in Palm Beach County on Monday.
Where the South Miami-Dade and Palm Beach County patients contracted the virus remains unknown, state health officials reported Tuesday, although the Palm Beach County patient had traveled to Miami-Dade. The investigations are continuing.
This report was updated to reflect new information about the active transmission zone.
Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich
Zika cases in Florida by county since Aug. 9
Number of Cases (all travel related)
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