lorida Governor Rick Scott confirmed Friday that the Zika virus is now believed to be spreading locally in Miami Beach — a second front for mosquito-borne transmission in Miami — as federal health officials urged pregnant women to avoid the affected areas.
“We believe we have a new area where local transmissions are occurring in Miami Beach,” Scott told reporters. He said the spread is believed to be occurring in a 1.5-square-mile area in the city, beginning near South Beach and extending north through the city center.
Shortly after his announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged women who are pregnant to avoid traveling to the newly designated area, a major hub for tourists. The agency had previously encouraged pregnant women to avoid the city’s other affected area, in a neighborhood north of downtown known as Wynwood.
The agency also recommended that pregnant women and their partners worried about Zika consider avoiding Miami-Dade County entirely.
Since health officials first confirmed Zika was spreading locally in the Miami area, at least 36 people are believed to have contracted the virus from a mosquito.
Scott said he was asking the CDC to provide additional Zika testing kits and mosquito prevention kits. CDC director Tom Frieden told reporters on a conference call that those supplies would be delivered early next week.
Nearly 600 people in Florida have been diagnosed with the virus overall, including more than 60 pregnant women. The virus’s most devastating effects are severe birth defects that can lead to permanent neurological damage.
Florida officials have expressed concern about the impact of Zika on tourist traffic in Miami Beach, home to more than half of the hotel rooms in Miami-Dade County, according to the Miami Herald.
Three of the cases in Miami Beach were people who live outside the area, Scott said Friday. One person is a resident of New York, another is from Texas, and the third lives in Taiwan.
Scott’s office announced Thursday that the state would work with hotels and restaurants to address the crisis, including offering free mosquito spraying for businesses that request it.
Miami Beach presents some unique challenges in containing Zika, Frieden told reporters. Authorities cannot spray insecticides from the air, forcing them to rely on ground teams. And many beachgoers in the heavily populated area are likely to be wearing outfits that show a lot of skin.
“We don’t think our advice to wear long shorts and long pants is likely to be followed in some of these areas,” he said. “That makes containment difficult.”