An Unwelcome Visitor: Zika Comes to Miami

Back in March, it was estimated that there had been 193 cases of Zika in the United States and that none of them had been transmitted locally. Rather, the virus in those cases was spread by travel or sexual activity. But researchers warned that the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the primary carrier of Zika, could find the southern Florida environment quite hospitable. In fact, Miami was determined to have biggest risk of any city in the country given its weather patterns, its incidence of previous cases of two other diseases transmitted by Aedes aegypti, and the number of travelers arriving from countries currently affected by Zika.

Fast forward to July and the Florida Department of Health announced that Miami was the site of the first suspected cases of local transmission to occur in the continental United States. Four people here likely acquired the Zika virus through bites by Aedes aegypti mosquitos that had previously bitten travelers from Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico who carried the virus in their blood. Since four out of five people with Zika have no symptoms, it's possible that a carrier had no idea he or she was infectious. As of August 3, 2016, Florida remained the only state in the union with locally acquired cases and ranked behind New York for the highest number of travel-associated cases with 322 (to New York’s 491).

If you are concerned about Zika, reduce your risk of mosquito bites by using:

  • Bed netting.
  • Insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535.
  • Permethrin spray or pre-treated clothing and gear.
  • Standing water treatment tabs.
  • Window screens.
  • Long-sleeved shirts and pants.

Finding mosquito-transmitted Zika in the Miami area led to an unprecedented warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For the first time ever, the CDC has advised people not to come to American community for fear of catching an infectious disease. Because Zika causes severe neurological damage to a fetus, pregnant women and their partners are cautioned not to visit the north Miami neighborhood of Wynwood. Based on the earliest time symptoms can begin and the maximum two-week incubation period for the Zika virus, the warning extends to people who live in or traveled to this area any time after June 15.

The CDC further recommends that:

  • People who live in or traveled to this area and who have a pregnant sex partner should abstain from sex during the pregnancy or use barriers to prevent infection if they have sex during the pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women who live in or frequently travel to this area should be tested in the first and second trimester of pregnancy.
  • All pregnant women in the United States should be assessed for possible Zika virus exposure during each prenatal care visit.
  • Women and men who traveled to this area should wait at least eight weeks before trying to get pregnant.

At that time, officials felt confident in instituting such a specific perimeter because the Aedes aegypti mosquito flies only about 500 feet in its lifetime. However, the advisory has now grown to include 1½ square miles in Miami Beach from the beach to the Intracoastal Waterway and from Eighth Street to 28th Street. Local Zika virus transmission in this area was confirmed after five individuals contracted the virus, three of whom were visitors that have since returned to their homes in Texas, New York, and Taiwan. This development comes with a new warning: the CDC has advised pregnant women and their sexual partners to consider postponing nonessential travel to all parts of Miami-Dade County. The CDC will cancel the travel advisory when:

  • the Miami environment is no longer conducive for mosquito activity,
  • the evidence shows that the risk of transmission has been sufficiently reduced, or
  • no new local-transmission cases have been identified for 45 days, which equals three mosquito incubation periods.

Here at Stabinski Law, we care about our community and want you to stay safe. As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, we have helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies for over 45 years. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us today by calling 305-964-8644 or filling out a free case evaluation form.

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