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article imageUPDATE: Has Zika spread to Miami Beach? Officials downplay news

By Karen Graham     Aug 19, 2016 in Health
Miami Beach - Sources have told several news outlets that the Zika virus has now spread to Miami Beach, creating alarm for those in the Florida tourist industry. Florida Department of Health officials confirmed there are two locally-transmitted Zika cases.
UPDATE: 4:19 p.m. ET In a statement Friday afternoon, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said pregnant women should avoid travel to the South Beach area, which has been identified as an infection zone. In the agency's statement, CDC Director Tom Frieden said it's "difficult to predict how long active transmission will continue." The number of cases in the new outbreak area has now jumped to five.
The Associated Press also reported that CDC officials are saying spraying for mosquitoes will not be possible in the South Beach area of Florida because of the number of high-rises and strong winds. Dr. Frieden also said it would be a challenge to control the spread of Zika in the narrow island city of Miami Beach because of the large numbers of residents and visitors in the area.
The New York Times is calling the two cases a "cluster" of Zika cases and the headline reads that this news may prompt a call to avoid the city of Miami Beach.
The reality is a bit different though. Florida Health Department officials released a statement on Thursday saying while they continue to investigate the areas in "Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties where local transmissions of Zika may have occurred," they still believe active transmissions are only occurring in the one-square-mile Wynwood neighborhood Zika zone.
The Miami Herald is reporting that health department officials did not respond to questions about active transmission of Zika in Miami Beach, the heart of the state's tourist trade. But City Manager Jimmy Morales sent an email to Miami Beach Commissioners confirming that two new Zika cases were found in the tourist Mecca.
“I have been informed that two Zika cases have been linked to Miami Beach, one a tourist who visited the Beach approximately two weeks ago, and another a resident who also works on the Beach,” Morales said in the email.
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, just back from New York, walked right into the excitement over the new Zika cases. Mayor Levine immediately called for people to remain calm. "There is no epidemic, no outbreak of Zika in Miami Beach," he said, adding that health officials told him the link to Miami Beach had not yet been confirmed.
The only publicized restrictions over the Zika virus comes from the CDC, and the agency is still advising pregnant women to avoid domestic travel to a one-square-mile area of Wynwood Neighborhood. Florida Governor Rick Scott repeated on Thursday that he "believes Zika is spreading only in that area."
But the Zika virus has been confirmed outside the Wynwood Neighborhood area. So far, 25 of the 35 locally-transmitted cases have been confirmed within the Wynwood neighborhood zone. It is anticipated that some sort of announcement by Florida health officials will be made Friday afternoon.
More about Miami beach, two zika cases, Tourists, Pregnant women, travel ban
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