MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Texas leader described it as a souvenir you don’t want to bring home, but an El Paso man did. He got Zika while on vacation in Miami.
“After months of anticipation and waiting, El Paso has its first Zika case. This a gentleman who was healthy when he left El Paso, traveled to Florida, happened to go to the area where there has been some transmission of Zika by Mosquitos, came home infected, sick,” said El Paso Public Health Director Robert Resendes.
There are 30 local cases so far, all from Wynwood.
Now the fear of the virus spreading to other U.S. cities has become real.
El Paso, Texas is one of a handful of U.S. cities that has been closely monitoring Zika. They’re now hoping that a man visiting Wynwood didn’t bring the virus home to spread.
“I want to be clear, this person, this man, did not get bit by an infected mosquito in El Paso,” Resendes said.
But if he did get bit, while still contagious, that’s how the virus is spread in a certain breed of mosquitoes.
This is the first reported case of a tourist getting Zika in Miami.
It’s something business owners in Wynwood don’t want to hear now that they’re seeing visitors coming back, especially right after Art Walk.
“We had projected actually worse based on the week before,” Adam Gersten said. “Things were actually better this weekend over the prior weekend, so that’s very encouraging sign.”
Gersten, owner of the Gramps bar in Wynwood, said he believes other places with similar climates will soon have their own Zika problems to deal with.
“In the long run, and maybe even in the short term, we’ll find that it’s really not about Wynwood. It’s just a way of life we’re going to have to deal with until they get a vaccine,” he said.
While the Texas man is doing fine now, he can still spread the virus through sex for months. This is why health officials throughout the country see Zika as more than just a Florida or Miami or Wynwood problem.