Officials in Florida are asking the federal government for help combating the outbreak of Zika after identifying 10 new cases of the disease over the weekend in a 2.5-square-kilometer neighborhood near the state’s southern tip.
Governor Rick Scott took the step after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control warned pregnant women Monday not to travel to the area just north of Miami where new cases of Zika virus infections have been identified. While Florida is seeking federal aid, Scott said Florida will continue its efforts to fight Zika.
“We will continue to keep our residents and visitors safe utilizing constant surveillance and aggressive strategies, such as increased mosquito spraying, that have allowed our state to fight similar viruses,” he said.
The White House said Monday that it will oblige Scott’s request.
“A team is being deployed by the CDC in short order so that we will be able to work with Governor Scott’s team on the ground in South Florida,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters.
Scott said all known cases of Zika in Florida were caused locally by mosquitos. So far, 14 cases have been identified in the area. Of those infected, 12 are men and two are women.
State health officials believe the spread of the Zika virus is limited to a square kilometer area in Miami-Dade County, just north of downtown Miami. The area is rapidly gentrifying and has numerous construction sites where standing water can collect and serve as a breeding area for mosquitos. Scott said the most important thing people can do to help the prevention effort is to eliminate any standing water.
"The biggest thing is: no standing water, no standing water, and then no standing water, and then no standing water," he said.
In addition to the travel warning aimed at pregnant women, the CDC said pregnant women in the Miami area should make every effort to avoid mosquito bites.
Officials identified six of the new cases by conducting door-to-door community surveys.
On Friday, officials announced four cases of the Zika virus, believed to be the first cases contracted from mosquitos within the 50 U.S. states. Since early July, Florida health officials said they have tested more than 200 people in the Miami area for exposure.
More than 1,650 people in the mainland U.S. have contracted the virus in recent months, nearly all while traveling in other countries.
U.S. officials have said they do not expect broad outbreaks like those in Brazil and in some other Latin American countries.
Aggressive mosquito control efforts in Florida were announced on Friday but the CDC said mosquito control efforts are not working as well as expected.
Health officials have reminded the public that most people with Zika don't know they are sick and that infection during pregnancy can cause babies to develop birth defects.