More Miami Beach Mosquitoes Test Positive For Zika As Insecticide Spraying Begins

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MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Just hours after a plane loaded with the controversial insecticide Naled was sprayed along Miami Beach Friday, state officials have announced it has detected Zika in another mosquito sample from Miami Beach. The sample came from the same small area, where it was previously announced three other samples had tested positive for Zika.

All samples have consisted of Aedes aeqypti mosquitoes and are from an area where increased trapping and intensified mosquito control measures have already been underway since the Florida Department of Health determined local transmission had occurred.   Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam issued a mosquito declaration on July 29 when local transmission first occurred in Florida, and Friday, extended this declaration for another 45-day period.

“This find underscores the continued need already underway in Miami-Dade to employ an aggressive and comprehensive mosquito control strategy,” stated Putnam. “Only with a multi-faceted approach to controlling the Zika-carrying mosquito will we be able to protect Floridians and visitors.”

“The fact that we have identified a fourth Zika-positive mosquito pool in Miami Beach serves as further confirmation that we must continue our proactive and aggressive approach to controlling the mosquito population, including our recent decision to begin aerial spraying in combination with larvicide treatment by truck,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez. “We will continue to work in close collaboration with the health and environmental experts and the City of Miami Beach to keep our community safe from the Zika virus.”

“Despite relentless efforts by the city and the county, this new discovery shows that the Zika threat continues to grow. Today’s announcement reinforces the need for us to continue being as aggressive as we can be against Zika,” said Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. “I will continue working closely with state and county officials, as well as with city staff to ensure that I am doing everything in my power to protect the health and wellbeing of our residents and visitors.”

Friday morning, despite heated protests from both residents and some community leaders, a plane sprayed Naled along Miami Beach. It’s the first plane to do so since the Zika virus crossed the causeway from Wynwood to the beach. For about 20 minutes, the plane made several passes directly over the water — not the island itself.

“To allow for the winds to compensate, to move the insecticide over the area we were talking about, which is the area from 8 street to 28 street, from the ocean to the bay,” said Frank Calderon with the Miami-Dade Mosquito Control.

Earlier this week, protesters repeatedly gathered outside Miami Beach City Hall calling for officials to halt the spraying.

Opponents pointed to a study that shows children born in farming areas where Naled is sprayed on crops have a higher rate of autism and learning disorders.

“I think that poisoning an entire population is unnecessary and wrong,” said a very pregnant Michelle Hurtado, who stood on the side of 17th Street, outside Miami Beach City Hall chanting with other demonstrators.

City officials pushed the spraying back a day to give residents and tourists a chance to leave the beach if they wanted to.

“I continue to be cautiously optimistic that we’re gonna get a result out of the Senate very soon,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, who was in Doral giving an update on his efforts to pass legislation to fight Zika.

He points out the Senate did pass a bi-partisan law back in May making $1.1 billion available, but it stalled in the House.

“My argument is that we need to put politics aside and remove whatever impediments are in our way and get this done as part of whatever way we’re gonna keep government open,” Rubio said. “The government basically runs out of money in September, so there will have to be a way passed.”

Still, many are having a hard time trusting government assurances that the pesticide is incapable of harming them.

“It is a world where we can do our own research now. It really isn’t hard to look at toxicity reports,” said Irene Sperber.

But at a forum hosted by University of Miami President Julio Frenk, himself a public health expert, a brain trust of doctors, epidemiologists and chemists concluded that health officials are moving wisely and safely to contain a dangerous virus.

“The best available evidence,” Frenk said, “suggests the aggressive attack against the spread of Zika is appropriate.”

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine was not happy about the Naled spraying, however, he said, based on what the experts tell him, it must be done.

In Broward, county leaders are launching the second aerial assault on the area, via helicopter, using the inorganic mixture Bacillus thuringiensis serotype israelensis (Bti) that targets larvae.

“In Miami-Dade, it’s my understanding that the spray that they’re using is to kill active mosquitoes,” said Broward Mayor Marty Kiar. “The way that we’re combating the Zika virus is we’re killing the larvae before they hatch and become mosquitoes. And in order to do that, we’re able to use an inorganic chemical that’s not dangerous to the public.”

Around 1 a.m. on Monday, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Margate and unincorporated central Broward County will be sprayed.

Related: Amid Concerns, Spraying Of Naled Delayed In Miami Beach’s Zika Fight

As of Friday,  there were 56 non-travel related cases of the virus in Florida and 616 travel-related cases. About 84 pregnant women in the state have been infected with Zika.

So far, the local transmission zones in Miami-Dade are the following:

  • Wynwood Area – NW 22nd St. at the South, NE 2nd Ave to NE 23rd St. at the east; NW 3rd Ave to the west; and NE 36th St to the north.
  • Miami Beach Area – 28th Street to the north, 8th Street to the south, intercoastal water to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.

Click here for more information on the Zika virus or here for more Zika-related stories.

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