Miami's Wynwood has been defined as the primary center of Zika, though only a small number of the state's 367 cases have been confirmed there. So far in Florida, 55 pregnant women have contracted the disease. Broward County, where only one resident has been locally infected but 55 others have contracted the disease while traveling, has rushed to buy new equipment and chemicals for extra spraying. Rain over the weekend has made this even more critical.
“Every available resource is being used to eliminate mosquitoes and their breeding sites in Broward,” Lori Shepherd, a spokesperson for the county's Mosquito Control Section of the Highway and Bridge Maintenance Division, told New Times. “We have recently purchased extra equipment, chemicals, and traps as well as shifted resources to accommodate the extra spraying.”
The Florida Department of Health has declined to name the one person infected in Broward. Since July 7, the agency has tested 70 of that person’s “close contacts.” So far, there are no active investigations or areas of active transmission in Broward. Shepherd says no areas in Broward are considered a greater risk than others.
But that hasn’t stopped concerned residents from requesting additional spraying near their homes.
“Because of the scare, more and more people are calling in,” Shepherd reports. “Neighborhoods are being sprayed on a case-by-case basis. We’re working with the Department of Health, and if they suspect a case, we might accompany them [to spray] that neighborhood.”
Though currently in use in Wynwood, right now Broward is not using aerial spraying. The mosquito population in Broward is “very low at this time,” says Shepherd — though rains could make for a substantial increase.
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County workers are using backpack spraying to kill mosquitoes and their larvae. Shepherd says residents can help by letting mosquito control employees onto their properties.
Zika is part of the same family of viruses as yellow fever, West Nile virus, chikungunya virus, and dengue. Fever, rash, and joint pain are the most common symptoms. The virus is only spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are often found in stagnant water such as uncovered buckets, flower pots, and unused swimming pools.
For years, Shepherd says, the county has worked to control its mosquito population. The biggest increase is after the heavy rains in the spring and summer months. In addition to the extra spraying, the county is distributing door hangers and flyers that advise ways to eliminate any standing water.
“The mosquito that carries the Zika virus can breed in something as small as a bottle cap,” Shepherd says. “It’s very important that everyone remove all standing water from their property, and if [that is] not possible, treat [the area] with larvicide or contact Mosquito Control.”