CDC warns pregnant women to avoid Miami over Zika

CDC warns pregnant women to avoid Miami over Zika
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Federal health authorities are warning pregnant women not to travel to the parts of Miami where mosquitoes are believed to be spreading the Zika virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the advisory Monday, three days after Florida health officials confirmed several people had contracted the virus locally, almost certainly from mosquitoes. The state announced Monday that the number of cases had risen to 14 over the weekend.

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It’s the CDC’s latest travel advisory for pregnant women over the last year and the first in the continental U.S.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told reporters Monday that the move is unprecedented, and that the center had issued “no similar recommendation in recent years.”

The travel advisory applies to a small part of Miami: All 14 cases have been reported in one square mile, just north of downtown. And so far, only two of the 14 infected people in Florida are women.

The CDC is only telling women who are already pregnant not to travel to the area. For women who are trying to conceive, the CDC is telling women to wait at least eight weeks after they return from their trip and test negative for Zika, which can cause birth defects in the newborns of women who contract the disease while pregnant.

In a conference call on Monday, Frieden said the agency decided to issue a travel warning because attempts to control mosquitoes “don’t seem to be working as well as we’d like.”

He said “it’s possible” that mosquitoes are resistant to the insecticides being used or that there are “cryptic breeding places” in the city. It’s also possible, he said, that “this is a very difficult mosquito to control, particularly in a complex urban environment.”

Frieden said he expects many more cases, though he doesn’t believe there will be a massive outbreak.

“Nothing that we’ve seen indicates widespread transmission, but it’s certainly possible there could be sustained transmission in certain areas,” Frieden said Monday.

The CDC is also stepping up its presence in Florida, dispatching an emergency response team to help investigate, research and sample mosquitoes in the area.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) had formally asked the federal government for emergency help earlier Monday. He has called for additional funding to fight Zika for months.

More than 200 people have been tested for Zika over the last three weeks, after the state health department began investigating possible local transmission of the virus.

A total of 2,300 people have been tested statewide since the outbreak began last year. About 300 have tested positive — more than any other state. 

While Scott urged people, particularly pregnant women, to take precaution, he also sought to reassure the public that it remained safe to travel to Florida this summer.

“Florida remains safe and open for business,” Scott said.