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Florida Reports First Local Mosquitoes With Zika; Bromeliads Removed


It's a rough week in Florida. Near one end of the state, the panhandle, a hurricane made landfall overnight. Near the other end, the Zika virus is still active in Miami Beach. And here's the latest - mosquitoes there have tested positive. Zika had already been found in people, and now, for the first time in the continental U.S., it's confirmed in the insects that carry it. NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Miami Beach is the second area in Florida, along with the Wynwood neighborhood, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel advisory because of Zika, warning pregnant women to avoid the area. Miami Beach city manager Jimmy Morales says mosquitoes in three traps were found with the virus, all in the area where Zika is being locally transmitted.

JIMMY MORALES: This is not an alarm. This is just a reminder to guests. There are obviously mosquitoes out there carrying this stuff, and it just redoubles our commitment.

ALLEN: In the two weeks since local Zika transmission was confirmed there, Miami Beach has taken aggressive action. More than 100 county crews are out daily, spreading pesticide with trucks and backpack sprayers. Code enforcement officers are inspecting homes and businesses for standing water. And the city has removed bromeliads, plants that are ideal mosquito breeding spots, for its botanical garden, roadways and parks. There are more than 40 people in Miami-Dade County known to have contracted Zika from local mosquitoes. But Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez pointed out that's just a tiny part of the county's population of 2.7 million.

MAYOR CARLOS GIMENEZ: This is not an epidemic. We are, though, taking every step possible - every prudent step to make sure that it doesn't become one.

ALLEN: In the Wynwood area, aggressive mosquito control efforts appear to have paid off. There have been no new cases reported there for three weeks. The CDC says a major factor in knocking down the mosquito population was aerial spraying. In Miami Beach, because of its high-rises and windy coastal conditions, mosquito control officials haven't been able to use aerial spraying. And Gimenez says mosquito populations bounce back after every rainstorm.

GIMENEZ: Maybe we had traps that had, maybe, about a hundred in them down to six. There's still six - so very, very difficult mosquito to control. Actually, the CDC director once told me this is the cockroach of mosquitoes.

ALLEN: A key to mosquito control, officials say, is targeting, not just adults, but also using a larvicide to kill them before they breed. Gimenez says mosquito control crews will begin using trucks to spray larvicide. Officials say they're also looking at ways to conduct aerial spraying in targeted areas on Miami Beach, perhaps with helicopters. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.