Homing In on Zika

Aug. 23, 2016

After months of speculation about the safety of traveling to already-affected areas, and with some people attributing the many empty seats at the Rio Olympic stadiums to fears about the Zika virus, we’re now getting some very specific information about its transmission in the US.

Officials had already identified one square-mile zone in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood in which Zika has been transmitted, and last week they announced another just across Biscayne Bay that includes the popular tourist spot South Beach. Five cases of Zika have occurred there, transmitted by mosquitoes. Just to be safe, the Centers for Disease Control announced “Pregnant women and their sexual partners who are concerned about potential Zika virus exposure may also consider postponing nonessential travel to all parts of Miami-Dade County.” Symptoms—if they appear at all—can take weeks to develop, the CDC noted, so there may be other parts of the county with active transmissions that we just don’t know about yet.

There is an inherent conflict between preserving tourism in a tourist-dependent state like Florida and issuing the broadest possible warnings to protect public health. While the CDC is suggesting that people concerned about the virus might want to avoid an entire county, Florida’s governor pointed out the new area that’s been identified is less than a mile and a half square, located quite specifically between 8th Street and 28th Street in Miami Beach. “That’s out of a state that takes 15 hours to drive from Key West to Pensacola, so let’s put things in perspective,” he said. His desire to make the risk sound as small as possible is understandable, and yet also a bit reminiscent of the mayor from the movie Jaws.


The governor also noted that mosquito control measures, such as increased spraying of pesticides, are being stepped up in the newly announced transmission zone.

Are any special precautions or mosquito control efforts being taken in your area because of the Zika virus? If so, how involved is the local stormwater or public works department? See this (pre-Zika) article from Stormwater about cooperation between stormwater and mosquito control agencies.

About the Author

Janice Kaspersen

Janice Kaspersen is the former editor of Erosion Control and Stormwater magazines.