July 29th marked the day of the first active local transmission of the Zika virus in the continental United States. This transmission occurred in Wynwood, Miami. Since the announcement, Miami residents have taken extra precautions against mosquito bites and waited for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lift the Miami-Dade County travel advisory.

On August 19th, the Florida Department of Health declared that the Zika virus was actively transmitting through mosquitoes in Miami Beach. The active transmission zone is 4.5 square miles. In the midst of heated debate regarding the naled pesticide spray and the fear of another case appearing before the CDC lifts the advisory, here’s what citizens need to know about Zika in Miami.

Current CDC Advisory Warnings for Zika

The CDC is working with Florida public health officials to conduct ongoing assessments of mosquito populations in Miami. These assessments will help the CDC gauge the number of mosquitos in the area. As of today, the CDC has reported an increasing mosquito population and additional Zika infections in the Wynwood neighborhood and sections of Miami Beach. The CDC has issued health warnings for anyone who lives in or has visited these areas since June 15, 2016—the earliest known date of a Zika infection in Miami. These include:

  • Pregnant women should not travel to these areas.
  • Pregnant women and their partners living in Miami should actively prevent mosquito bites and sexually transmitted Zika.
  • Pregnant women who travel to this area should receive testing for the Zika infection in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, even if they are not showing symptoms.
  • Men and women who have traveled to these areas should wait at least eight weeks before trying to get pregnant. Men with symptoms of Zika should wait at least six months before trying.
  • Men and women who are trying for pregnancy and who live in or travel frequently to these areas in Miami should consider the health risks and consult a healthcare provider beforehand.
  • Anyone with possible exposure or symptoms of Zika should receive testing for the virus.

The CDC recommends the use of insect repellent containing DEET, wearing long sleeves and pants, using screens on doors and windows, using air conditioning, and removing standing water to prevent mosquito bites and reduce the mosquito population in the area. The CDC continues to work with Florida health officials to reduce the risk of additional Zika infections.

Symptoms of the Zika Virus

The majority of people infected with the Zika virus will only experience mild, flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all. They may experience fever, joint pain, rash, and headache. The Zika virus is most dangerous for pregnant women, as health officials link it with the birth defect microcephaly. Microcephaly is when a newborn’s head is smaller than average, with a smaller brain that may not have developed properly. In addition to microcephaly, scientists have linked Zika with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a nervous system condition, and other fetal brain defects that may affect vision, hearing, and growth.

Women can pass the Zika virus to fetuses if infected while pregnant. Health officials still do not know everything about the Zika virus, nor do they fully understand its relationship with birth defects. Women can get Zika through mosquito bites, but it is also sexually transmitted. Until they know more about Zika and its effects on pregnancy, the CDC recommends that women hold off on trying for pregnancy if they live in or visit Miami-Dade County.

The government decided to spray the infected areas of Miami with naled, an insecticide, to reduce mosquito populations. Despite public outcry regarding this decision, government officials have conducted four sprays in the area so far.