In July, Miami officials confirmed the first cases of locally transmitted Zika in the continental United States. The number of suspected cases in Miami-Dade County has since risen, to 49. Crews tested tens of thousands of mosquitoes and had not found a single one that carried the disease — until now.
Officials said Thursday that three mosquitoes trapped in a section of Miami Beach tested positive for the virus for the first time, confirming what everyone had pretty much suspected: Mosquitoes in the U.S. are carrying Zika. “This find is disappointing, but not surprising,” wrote Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam in a statement.
Miami Beach is one of the areas where the disease is spreading; the first local case was reported in South Beach on August 19. The CDC quickly issued a travel advisory warning pregnant women to avoid the area.
Crews trapped these particular bloodsuckers in a one-and-a-half-mile area, and at least one of them came from the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, reports the Miami Herald. (Officials wouldn’t identify the other sources for privacy reasons.) About 95 mosquitoes in that testing batch also came back negative for the disease. Miami officials have proactively been trying to fight the spread of Zika since the first local cases were detected in a square mile of the Wynwood arts district. They’ve ramped up the awareness campaigns and testing in both mosquitoes and humans, to track the disease and stop its spread. The city has gone on an aerial-spraying blitz and stepped up ground operations: spritzing pesticides, inspecting drains, dumping out standing water, and killing bromeliads, a plant where mosquitoes like to lay eggs. The mosquito population has dropped in Wynwood, according to officials. But mosquito control in Miami Beach is a bit more challenging: High-rise buildings and that ocean breeze make it hard to spray from above.
According to the CDC, there are more than 2,700 Zika infections in the United States, excluding territories. Again, the Florida cases are the only known local transmissions, and those are still centered on a very small area. Almost all of the U.S. Zika cases originated from travel or were passed through sexual contact.