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"Zika-Free" Zone Declared in Florida: Local Transmission Threat Still Looms in Other States

SEP 21, 2016 | BRIAN P. DUNLEAVY
On the same day officials in Florida declared the Wynwood section of Miami, “ground zero” for the Zika virus in the state, no longer “active” for local transmission, officials from a state halfway across the country expressed concerns over a “pending disaster” involving the mosquito-borne infection.
 
Missouri representative Marsha Haefner, chair of the House Appropriations Committee on Health, Mental Health and Social Services told talk radio station 93.9 FM The Eagle that it is a case of “when, not if, [the virus] makes its way” to the “Show-Me” state.
 
“Not only will it have tragic results for infants, but this could be a huge cost to the state,” she said.
 
Officials with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Division (DHSSD) told the station that the agency is in the process of developing a plan to help prevent local transmission and assist those dealing with the Zika virus. To date, no cases of local transmission of the virus have been reported in the state, though there have been 29 travel-related cases identified.
 
According to DHSSD director Harold Kirbey, the agency has been working with scientists at Missouri State University to collected mosquitoes in the Kansas City, Columbia, and St. Louis areas for surveillance purposes. So far, these efforts have not revealed the presence of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the species primarily associated with carrying Zika.
 
Meanwhile, in Florida, the only US state to have reported local transmission of Zika via the mosquito thus far, officials at the state and federal level have announced that they are relaxing warnings advising pregnant women not to travel to Miami's Wynwood arts district. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had issued the advisory in early August, after locally-transmitted cases surfaced in the area the previous month. To date, there have been 79 locally-transmitted cases of the virus reported in the Sunshine state; however, none have been reported in the Miami neighborhood since early August. According to the CDC, mosquito control efforts, such as aerial spraying with the insecticides naled and Bti, have reduced the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the area significantly.
 
“This outbreak would have kept going without the aerial spraying,” Lyle Petersen, MD, MPH, director of the division of vector-borne diseases for the CDC told the Associated Press.
 
Despite the good news from Wynwood, which is north of downtown Miami, CDC officials also noted that the mosquito transmission zone in neighboring Miami Beach has grown in recent days from an area of roughly 1.5 square miles to 4.5 square miles, as a result of the identification of a new cluster of cases. Thus, the CDC is still advising pregnant women to consider postponing non-essential travel to all of Miami-Dade County.
 
Brian P. Dunleavy is a medical writer and editor based in New York. His work has appeared in numerous healthcare-related publications. He is the former editor of Infectious Disease Special Edition.
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