Florida health officials on Wednesday reported one new local Zika infection in Palm Beach and 15 new travel-related cases in other counties statewide, including three in Orange, three in Pinellas, three in Polk, two in Broward, one in Hillsborough, one in Manatee, one in Pasco and one in Volusia.
The local infection in Palm Beach is the county’s second mosquito-borne transmission this month, and it is unrelated to an earlier case reported there, according to the Florida Department of Health.
If the second local infection in Palm Beach occurred within a one-square-mile area of the first case, however, then that could trigger the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for declaring a third area of active transmission in Florida.
CDC guidelines define a local outbreak as two or more people infected with Zika who do not share a household, with travel and sexual transmission ruled out, and who acquired the disease within one-square-mile over a period of two weeks or more.
In all, Florida has reported 43 local Zika infections so far, with nearly all in Miami-Dade except one case each in Broward and Pinellas counties and the two in Palm Beach. Statewide, Florida has reported 523 travel-related Zika cases and 70 infections involving pregnant women.
Over the past month, the CDC and state health department have identified two zones in Miami-Dade as the only areas in Florida where mosquitoes are actively spreading Zika: a one-square-mile section of Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, and a 1.5-square-mile zone in Miami Beach.
Florida health officials are conducting 10 investigations into local spread of Zika, including seven in Miami-Dade, two in Palm Beach and one in Pinellas after a mosquito-borne infection was announced there on Tuesday.
State epidemiologists have closed their investigations into two cases, one in Miami-Dade and a second in Broward. And on Tuesday, the health department said investigators had gathered enough information to close two additional investigations in Miami-Dade outside of the Wynwood and Miami Beach zones. Both cases were determined to have stopped with a single person.
As epidemiologists go door-to-door in the three counties where the health department is investigating, Miami-Dade mosquito control officials said their efforts to knock down the insects in Wynwood are succeeding.
At a morning news conference Wednesday, Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control Director Chalmers Vasquez said efforts to combat mosquitoes on Miami Beach, where high-rise condos dot the skyline and interfere with aerial spraying, may be more difficult.
“We want to fight this battle on the ground,” he said of Miami Beach.
It’s too soon to tell whether truck fogging and other measures that began Friday have reduced numbers there, he said. But in Wynwood — after a month of aerial spraying with pesticides that kill both adult mosquitoes and their eggs — the population has dropped by more than 90 percent, he said.
And that may be helping to decrease transmission. Health officials said the last active transmission occurred nearly a month ago, with a patient whose symptoms first began on Aug. 5, he said.
“That’s three weeks without recent transmissions,” he said. “So that’s a good indication that we may have broken the cycle.”
Still, Vasquez said the county has no plans to scale back efforts since mosquitoes can quickly rebound during soggy summer months, creating an ideal breeding environment for the species most capable of transmitting Zika.
“The Aedes aegypti is all over in the summer,” he said. “In the dry season, we should see a crash in the mosquito population.”
In order for the CDC to lift its travel advisory in the square-mile area of Wynwood, health officials must find no new local cases of Zika for at least 45 days, or three mosquito incubation periods, according to the agency’s guidance.
And though Florida’s health department has “cleared” about half of the square-mile zone of active transmission in Wynwood because more testing for Zika virus has not produced evidence of further transmission, the CDC has not amended its guidelines since the area was identified on July 29.
At a special board meeting of the Wynwood Business Improvement District attended by several dozen business owners Wednesday, Lillian Rivera, administrator of the Miami-Dade health department, sought to clarify recent reports about Zika cases in Wynwood, emphasizing that four local cases announced earlier this week were not new cases.
Still, she stressed vigilance: “The mosquito is everywhere in South Florida. We should take care of ourselves where ever we are.”
Representatives from Career Source South Florida, the county’s jobs agency, and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity attended the meeting to answer questions about government resources for suffering businesses and to encourage business owners to fill out the Miami Business Impact Survey on floridajobs.org.
The Short-Time Compensation Program, designed to help employers retain their workforces in slowdowns, is available to business owners now and employers can find out more on floridajobs.org, officials said.
And in Miami Beach on Wednesday evening, health department workers were canvassing the South Beach neighborhood just south of Lincoln Road to educate residents about Zika.
Teams of three carried clipboards and coolers with equipment as they knocked on doors to interview residents. The department taped notices to doors and gates to let people know they'd be conducting interviews and voluntary testing.
Staff writers Nancy Dahlberg and Joey Flechas contributed to this report.
Zika cases reported in Florida as of Aug. 24
Number of Cases
Total cases not involving pregnant women
. . .
. . .
Cases involving pregnant women regardless of symptoms
* Counties of pregnant women are not disclosed.
** Does not include local cases.
Source: Florida Department of Health