The Fight Against Zika – Miami’s Ground Zero
For residents of Miami Dade County, seeing pesticide trucks patrolling the neighborhood block and daily spraying has become the new normal as Miami continues to wage a much needed – and currently underfunded fight against the Zika Virus.
Zika – a virus transmitted by the aedes aegypti mosquito has caused fifteen confirmed Zika infections in Miami-Dade County, and one confirmed infection in Broward County to date as the East Coast of Florida becomes ground zero for the spread of the virus in the U.S.
Though the virus does not cause a lasting health impact for the majority of people who contract the virus – but can have staggering ramifications for pregnant women as it causes a severe brain damage in unborn children.
Concern over stopping the spread of the virus has led to an ambitious fight against Zika in Miami, as well as in the Florida Keys – an area which has not as of yet experienced an outbreak – but has one of the most aggressive mosquito control policies in the country due to prior disease outbreaks and susceptibility.
How is Miami Waging the Fight Against Zika?
To date, there are multiple initiatives to conduct aggressive spraying of pesticides within the “Zika zone.” Some areas are being sprayed as frequently as three times per day, and special task forces are combing through the Zika zone to eliminate standing bodies of water and puddles which could be breeding grounds for the infected mosquitos.
The problem, however, is that the aedes aegypti mosquito can breed in as little as one drop of water – so additional measures are taking place. Teams of testers are gathering over 1,000 mosquitos per day and testing them for the Zika virus to determine how effective prevention measures are.
According to Thomas Regalado, mayor of Miami “We are testing 1,000 mosquitoes a day for the virus, and not one has tested positive. We have been going through Wynwood, inch by inch, spraying and warning people. So I’d argue that this is actually one of the safest parts of Miami.”
Despite local opinions, the CDC and the National Health Service have both released warnings against travel to the area. The CDC has also issued advice on how local residents can stay protected against the virus. This advice includes the use of insect repellant containing DEET, covering up when outside, and limiting outside activities when mosquitoes are most active – at daybreak and dusk.
The local effort to inform Miami residents about potential risks, and preventive measures is being carried out by a task force involving both the Miami Dade Mosquito control, and local officers who are passing out informational pamphlets about the spread of Zika. The fight against Zika is also coming to the doors of some local residents – where people who are within the Zika zone and may have been exposed to the virus are being tested.
Experts Warn the Miami Fight Against Zika May Not Be Enough
Despite all of the current local actions and precautions, many experts are warning that the local fight against the Zika virus may not be enough to halt its spread. One of the primary issues my be in the funding of the fight, and the tools used.
According to information released in an article appearing in the Telegraph “Miami-Dade County, population 2.8 million, spends just $1.8 million on mosquito control, enough for a staff of 17, of whom 12 are inspectors. In July the mayor of Miami Dade, applied $211,000 of extra funding to combat Zika, and the governor has released emergency funding”
However, the amount of money allocated to the fight against Zika is tiny compared with other Florida efforts. In the Florida Keys, for example, $10 million dollars is allocated annually to the fight against mosquitos. This includes strategies such as the use of liquid larvicide and granules which are sprayed via the air to kill larvae in the water – before they ever have the chance to bite anyone. It also includes the testing and release of genetically engineered mosquitos – whose offspring die at birth.
The Fight Against Zika Gets Political
It is no surprise that with the Zika virus making landfall during a U.S. election year the fight against Zika has become a political topic. President Barack Obama announced a $1.1 Billion Dollar plan to fight Zika, but the plan – and the funding have been blocked by Congress.
Thomas Frieden, director of the Center for Disease Control described the political stalemate as “no way to fight an epidemic.”
In the meantime, residents of Miami are implementing local precautions to stay safe – and millions of residents are waiting to see if their city will receive funding – or if they will have to go it alone. Do you live in Florida? Let us know what you think of the Zika virus and the current efforts underway to stop its spread by commenting below or on social.