Pregnant women should now avoid a popular section of this tourist district where Zika is spreading, in addition to a smaller area north of downtown Miami, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday.
Pregnant women and their sexual partners who are concerned about the virus could also consider avoiding “nonessential travel” to all of Miami-Dade County, according to the CDC. Although Zika mostly spreads through mosquito bites, both men and women can transmit the virus sexually.
Florida health officials, who have been grappling with a Zika outbreak in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, confirmed Friday that five people also have been infected in South Beach, the vibrant community that’s located across Biscayne Bay from the rest of Miami and known for its pastel-colored buildings and art deco architecture.
The new cases bring the total number of infections spread by local mosquitoes to 36, Gov. Rick Scott said. The five latest patients were infected within a 1.5 square mile area of Miami Beach, said Scott, whose state is the first to experience a Zika outbreak from native mosquitoes. The bulk of the USA’s more than 2,200 cases of the virus are related to travel.
The affected area of Miami Beach stretches from the beach to the Intracoastal Waterway, from 8th Street to 28th Street, Scott said.
People who live in or who have traveled to this area since July 14 should be “aware of active Zika virus transmission,” the CDC said. Pregnant women who have been to this area since that date should see their doctor or other healthcare provider about getting tested for Zika. Men and women with a pregnant sex partner who have visited the area since July 14 “should consistently and correctly use condoms to prevent infection during sex or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy.”
The CDC recommends all pregnant women be assessed for possible exposure to Zika virus, although not all of them need to be tested. Testing for Zika is time-consuming and the number of lab staff available to perform the tests is limited.
Mosquitoes could be spreading the virus in other areas in Miami-Dade County that haven’t yet been recognized, said CDC Director Thomas Frieden. “There are undoubtedly more infections that we’re not aware of right now,” he said.
Frieden notes that 80% of Zika patients have no symptoms, making the disease difficult to diagnose. Patients can incubate the virus for up to two weeks before showing signs of the disease, which can include fever, rash, joint pain, pink eye, headache and other problems.
The CDC took the unprecedented step earlier this month to warn pregnant women to avoid the Wynwood neighborhood that’s located north of downtown. The area of concern in Wynwood has since shrunk as officials investigated the outbreak.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Liz Szabo and Liz Freeman