CDC Issues 'Unprecedented' Miami Travel Warning Over Zika Concerns
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued what’s been described as a historic travel warning, advising pregnant women and their partners to avoid an area north of Miami, Florida, over Zika concerns. It’s believed to be the first time the CDC has warned people against traveling to an American neighborhood over concerns of infectious disease transmission, according to agency spokesman Tom Skinner.
The agency’s warning is timely: 11 additional people in Florida were found to have been infected with the virus, bringing Florida’s total to 15. Last week, Florida officials confirmed that four people had contracted the virus within the same 150-square-meter area, prompting the warning.
“New test measurements over the weekend showed a risk of continued active transmission in that area,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden announced in a conference Monday. “Because of this finding, we are advising pregnant women not to travel to that area and if they have traveled there on or after June 15 to visit their health care provider for testing.”
Frieden admitted in the same conference that “aggressive control measures are not working as well as we would like” in Miami. “The mosquitoes could be resistant to the pesticides being used, or the mosquitoes could be hiding in what we call ‘cryptic’ breeding places that are hard to find, like very small amounts of water where they can hatch … The Aedes aegypti [the mosquito responsible for spreading the Zika virus] is a really tough mosquito to control.”
With that said, the cases in Florida are the first instances of local mosquito transmission being responsible for the Zika virus. Most cases in the U.S. have been as a result of travel to other countries – 60 countries and territories in total – or by sexual transmission. Nearly every state is reporting cases of Zika; only Idaho, South Dakota, Wyoming and Alaska have been immune to it.
The spread of Zika is now threatening Florida’s tourism.
The outbreak has prompted travel warnings overseas. Public Health England (PHE) has issued a warning to British pregnant women, advising them to postpone non-essential trips to Florida. Ireland has also issues a similar travel warning to its citizens.
More than 106 million people visited Florida last year, which was the fifth consecutive record year for visitations, according to Visit Florida. And more than 1.2 million Floridians work in the state’s tourism industry.
The state hasn’t released data on Zika’s effects on tourism, but local businesses say they’re concerned.
“That’s absolutely what’s frightening a lot of businesses here: Tourism is Florida’s major economy, and the service sector is hugely dependent on people coming from everywhere,” Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, told the Washington Post. “Businesses want to believe it’s very localized in Miami. But on the other hand, they’re realistic — and fearful it’ll go beyond that.”