A Zika outbreak in Miami has led to 10 more local cases spread by mosquitoes in the same neighborhood north of downtown and identified last week as having been the source of the nation’s first locally transmitted cases, Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced on Monday.
Scott said he called on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to dispatch an emergency response team to Miami to help the state’s health department in their investigation of the local cases, believed to have been spread in a one-square-mile area in early July.
“Florida has a proven track record of success when it comes to managing similar mosquito-borne viruses,” Scott said in a written statement. “We will continue to keep our residents and visitors safe utilizing constant surveillance and aggressive strategies, such as increased mosquito spraying, that have allowed our state to fight similar viruses.”
The area, identified by Florida health officials, touches on the Wynwood, Midtown and Design District neighborhoods in Miami, popular with tourists. The area is bordered by Northwest Fifth Avenue to the west, U.S. 1 (Biscayne Boulevard) to the east, Northwest/Northeast 38th Street to the north, and Northwest/Northeast 20th Street to the south.
Florida health officials and local mosquito control workers have been inspecting and spraying the area since the first case was diagnosed several weeks ago. They also have been trapping and testing mosquitoes in Miami-Dade and Broward.
While some have criticized Scott for failing to ask the CDC for help prior to Monday, the federal agency and the White House have praised Florida’s aggressiveness in responding to mosquito borne-diseases in the past.
Under the CDC’s Zika response plan, each state held preliminary planning discussions with the agency earlier this year regarding the type of assistance that would be needed in the event of a local outbreak.
The composition of the team includes epidemiological experts in arboviruses, pregnancy and birth defects, as well as mosquito control experts and communications teams.
When the CDC teams are deployed, the number of people included and their tasks all depend on the needs of the local jurisdiction, according to CDC guidance.
Florida and the CDC have long anticipated that Zika would begin to spread locally in Miami and other cities in the South, just like they saw with chikungunya and dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases. Despite thousands of imported cases of chikungunya virus, the CDC reported only 12 locally transmitted cases of the disease in Florida in 2014.
But Zika is different, not just because the virus can cause birth defects but because it is also sexually transmitted, and may be even more infectious from person to person than scientists know, as a mystery case currently under investigation by the CDC in Utah makes clear.
CDC Director Tom Frieden said he does not expect widespread local transmission of Zika in the continental United States — at least not on the scale seen in Brazil and Puerto Rico.
The Florida Department of Health has conducted testing for the Zika virus on more than 2,300 people statewide. Since DOH began its investigation into possible local transmissions of Zika on July 7, more than 200 people in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have been tested for the virus. They all live or work near the people already confirmed to have acquired Zika from local mosquitoes.
Of the 14 local Zika cases, two are women and 12 are men.