Zika outbreak seeps beyond Florida’s ‘warning zone’


August 11, 2016


Image: iStock.com/RolfAasa

Zika news took an unexpected and somewhat dire turn recently when one pregnant woman set off a firestorm in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, where there appears to be the first U.S.-borne Zika outbreak. What’s confounding to experts is the fact that the woman doesn’t have any clear connection to where the outbreak is believed to be concentrated, nor has she traveled to a country where Zika is circulating. Further, she hasn’t had intercourse with anyone likely to be infected. The confusion surrounding these circumstances creates a queasy dilemma for health officials still trying to understand and contain the outbreak.

The pregnant woman is just one of the 22 cases of Zika health officials are closely examining and tracking the outbreak, which is the first known Zika outbreak in the continental U.S. She’s also the first known pregnant woman likely infected by a mosquito bite, rather than from travel or sex.

Up until recently the focus of health investigators is a “warning zone” of about one square mile, in the Wynwood neighborhood, just north of Miami. Most of the 22 reported cases involve individuals connected in some way to the Wynwood area, but now the scope of the investigation has widened to the above-mentioned Miami-Dade County and the adjacent Broward County.

With cases occurring outside what was previously considered the warning zone, the Florida Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are faced with a growing dilemma: how to keep cases deemed “isolated” just that. Because symptoms are sometimes slow to surface after infection, and in some cases no symptoms occur, tracking the virus has led health officials to resort to more aggressive tactics such as door to door inspections.

The CDC has said it doesn’t expect widespread transmission of Zika in the U.S., in part because of the Aedes aegypti mosquito’s limited flight range. But with new cases seemingly bleeding out of areas that might have seemed safely contained, anxiety among Floridians has no doubt increased, and until health officials find a way to safely control and contain the spread, they may be wise to keep their guard up.

Do you work in any of the Florida counties affected by Zika? If so, we’d love to hear your perspective on the public’s attitudes and the CDC’s efforts. Also, what role have you played in the continually evolving drama? Have mosquito jobs increased dramatically? And if you don’t offer mosquito service has recent Zika news inspired you to consider it. Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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