Miami Beach officials on Friday reported six new local Zika infections linked to their city, announcing the news through social media. The Florida Department of Health typically announces new cases, but state offices in Tallahassee were closed due to Hurricane Hermine. The department late Friday confirmed the cases.
Commissioner Michael Grieco first announced the news via Facebook Friday afternoon, posting a message along with a photo of a resolution he drafted opposing aerial spraying of pesticides in Miami Beach to control mosquitoes that spread Zika.
Grieco said he posted the note to “get information out as quickly and clearly as possible so people are informed,” adding that he doesn’t post unless it’s important.
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“I don’t tell people about puppy dogs and ice cream,” he said.
The state health department has previously reported at least six other cases linked to Miami Beach. Gov. Rick Scott declared a public health emergency for Zika in February for affected counties.
On Thursday, the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reported that mosquitoes trapped on South Beach had tested positive for Zika — the first conclusive proof that insects in the U.S. are carrying the virus.
The finding verified what health officials have known since at least July 29, when they identified a one-square-mile section of Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood as the first in the nation where mosquitoes were spreading Zika.
A second area with active spread of the disease was identified on Aug. 19, when health officials said mosquitoes were transmitting the virus in a 1.5-square-mile section of Miami Beach.
The agriculture department said Zika-positive mosquitoes were found in three traps located in the area of Miami Beach where the virus is spreading, but they identified only one place: the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, which closed on Monday.
State officials have refused to identify the other two locations in Miami Beach where mosquitoes tested positive for Zika, citing a statutory exemption for epidemiological investigations.
In response to the finding of Zika-positive mosquitoes, the governor issued a press release stating that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended aerial spraying on Miami Beach by helicopter — something Grieco said he and his constituents strongly oppose.
“I would say for every person that had a concern about the virus, five to 10 people were exponentially more concerned about the potential of Naled aerial spraying in Miami Beach,” he said.
Florida has reported a total of 49 local Zika infections, not including the cases identified by Miami Beach officials on Friday. An additional 656 Floridians, including 80 pregnant women, have acquired the disease this year after traveling outside the country to places where Zika is widespread.
Miami Beach officials were first informed of the new cases at 3 p.m. in an email from City Manager Jimmy Morales’ office, which noted that, “We have been notified by the Department of Health that at 4 p.m. today they will be announcing the confirmation of six new Zika cases on Miami Beach.”
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said the health department held a conference call with city officials at 4 p.m. and also informed them of the new cases linked to the Beach.
Miami Herald staff writer Alex Harris contributed to this report.