The CDC has warned pregnant women not to travel to certain areas of Florida’s Miami Beach where transmissions of the Zika virus have been confirmed.
In an updated announcement Friday, the CDC advised women to stay away from an approximately two-square-mile section of Miami Beach. The agency previously identified and warned against traveling to Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood due to the area’s active Zika virus transmissions.
The CDC also warned pregnant women and their sexual partners living in or traveling to the Miami Beach area to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites and to either abstain from sex or use condoms or other barrier contraception to prevent the spread of infection.
After initially denying it, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said there have been five confirmed cases of Zika in Miami Beach. All the cases involve people traveling to the area: two men and three women — one from Taiwan, Dallas, New York, and two South Florida residents. Including those cases, Florida’s locally transmitted Zika case load is now 36.
Pregnant women are the most vulnerable to Zika infections, which can be transmitted by mosquitos and unprotected sex, because of the risk of birth defects. The CDC’s updated travel warning applies to all Florida residents and out-of-towners who visited Miami Beach on or after July 14. Those who visited the Wynwood neighborhood after June 15 are also under the advisory.
The Zika virus’ spread in the United States has caused concern for citizens and Congress — but legislators still haven’t passed the billion-dollar funding package over a fight about unrelated, controversial amendments. Infections are no longer only brought in from those who contracted it abroad, but through mosquitos in the United States. The virus has a two-week incubation period after which only 20 percent of those infected show symptoms.
And the number of U.S. cases is expected to grow as the world becomes warmer and wetter due to climate change. By as early as 2061, an extra 500 million people could be at risk for mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, according to a report by the Carbon Brief. That’s partly due to mosquito seasons getting longer and increasing the number of weeks during which Zika and other mosquito-bourne diseases can be transmitted.
The main solutions to protecting against Zika are to avoid getting bitten and have protected sex if traveling to a high-risk area. Scientists are working on neutralizing mosquitos’ reproductive abilities by introducing genetically modified males — female mosquitos are the ones that bite and transmit disease — to areas where Zika is thriving.
The FDA recently approved trials for genetically modified mosquito testing in the Florida Keys, but residents oppose the method and have prevented it from taking off. Floridians worry they will be used as test subjects and suffer unforeseen effects. But federal researchers contend the method is safe and hasn’t caused any problems elsewhere in the world trying to stamp out Zika.
No Zika cases have been confirmed in the Florida Keys, which is just a 120-mile highway ride away from Miami, but a confirmed case is inevitable. Green-lighting the GMO mosquito experiments could potentially kill up to 60 percent of the female mosquitos carrying and transmitting the virus.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of people who show symptoms after contracting Zika. Only 20 percent of those who are infected show symptoms. We regret the error.