Downtown Miami

Despite Zika warnings, it is business as usual in Wynwood

Combating Zika in Miami's Wynwood district

Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control inspectors work to combat Zika on Saturday, July 30, 2016, after four people in South Florida acquired the virus from local mosquitoes.
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Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control inspectors work to combat Zika on Saturday, July 30, 2016, after four people in South Florida acquired the virus from local mosquitoes.

Hannah Fabrigas wasn’t sure if the Zika virus was real.

“My cousin told me it was just a hoax,” the 19-year-old said as she stood in front of Wynwood Walls on Sunday afternoon. “We joked about putting on repellant, but we didn’t.”

Visiting from the Philippines, it was her second day in Miami and she had just heard more about the virus spreading.

“So, it’s not a hoax?” her cousin asked. “It’s real?”

Despite the announcement Friday that two people who contracted Zika virus were both bitten by mosquitoes in a one-square-mile area that includes Wynwood, most tourists and business owners did not see any reason to change their Sunday plans. People still posed for pictures in front of the iconic walls, stopping to sit outside for coffee or a free ice cream even as they stepped over pamphlets warning to watch out for mosquitoes.

The mosquitoes, many said, weren’t a reason to stay away.

“We don’t feel any mosquito bites right now,” Fabrigas said with a shrug. When she was 9 years old, she was bitten by a mosquito in the Philippines and battled dengue, another mosquito-borne disease, for two weeks. Compared to that, she said, Zika isn’t nearly as scary.

“I don’t think it’s as prevalent yet, so I don’t worry that much,” she said.

A total of four people in South Florida — two in Miami-Dade and two in Broward — have contracted the virus in the first local spread of the virus in the continental United States. On Saturday, four county inspectors patrolled the Wynwood neighborhood, spraying pesticides, inspecting drains and dumping standing water that could attract mosquitoes.

Standing outside her stall near Wynwood Walls, Rita Lamala lit a Palo Santo wood chip to bring good vibes and energy — not to scare away mosquitoes. That, she said, would be an added bonus.

Fewer people had stopped to buy bracelets from her Sunday, but Lamala said it was a consequence of the heat. Friday and Saturday had been very profitable for her, and she doesn’t believe that is going to change.

“I think it’s the media that gives people fear,” she said. “Once media puts the fear in people, then they’re afraid.”

Across the street at Coyo Taco, the door was propped open as a handful of customers enjoyed their food outside. Ryan Brock, who works in the restaurant, said he hadn’t seen any change in business since Friday, just more conversation about the virus in general.

“I did research it and learn about it,” he said. “I’ve found myself washing my hands more, cleaning tables more — for the germs, to keep the bugs away.”

On a spontaneous trip to Wynwood with their Palm Beach Gardens youth group, Carolyn Gille and Michelle Vidal didn’t see the need to leave. They just put on a coat of bug spray, and went to admire the walls.

“Enjoy life,” Vidal said. “You’ve only got one to live.”

People who live in the area north of downtown and want to be tested for Zika should contact the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County at 305-324-2400 for more information.

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