Fla. finds Zika in local mosquitoes in 1st for mainland U.S.
MIAMI — Florida has found the Zika virus in three groups of mosquitoes trapped in Miami Beach — the first time this has happened in the continental U.S. — and authorities are blaming a particular flower for making mosquito control much more difficult.
One of the traps that tested positive was at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, where bromeliads bloom. The plants trap standing water in their cylindrical centers, providing excellent breeding areas for mosquitoes amid their colorful flowers and pointy leaves.
Miami- Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Miami Beach is removing all bromeliads from its landscaping and urged residents across the county to either pull them out or rinse them after every rain.
And with Hurricane Hermine bringing much more rain to Florida, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday ordered the county to immediately conduct aerial spraying by helicopter as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Zika-carrying mosquitoes were trapped in a touristy 1.5- square-mile area of South Beach identified as a zone of active transmission of the virus, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said in a news release.
“This is the first time we have found a Zika viruspositive mosquito pool in the continental United States,” confirmed CDC spokeswoman Erin Sykes.
Finding the virus in mosquitoes has been likened by the CDC to finding a needle in a haystack, but the testing helps mosquito controllers target their efforts, and it confirms that the insects themselves, in addition to infected humans, have begun transmitting the virus inside the mainland U.S.
Since July, authorities have linked a couple dozen Zika cases to transmission in small areas of Miami’s Wynwood district and the popular South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach. Other isolated cases not linked to travel outside the U.S. also have been confirmed elsewhere in MiamiDade County, as well as in neighboring counties and in the Tampa Bay area, totaling 49 for the state.
A poll released Thursday suggests nearly 48 percent of Americans are wary of traveling to U.S. destinations where people have been infected with Zika through mosquito bites.
A third of people surveyed in the Kaiser Family Foundation poll believe Congress should make approving more funds to combat Zika a top priority. President Barack Obama proposed $1.9 billion in emergency funding for Zika in February, but Congress has been unable to agree on a final bill.
The poll of 1,211 adults conducted Aug. 18-24 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.