Aerial spraying will begin early Friday morning over Miami Beach in a bid to stop the spread of Zika, the deadly virus being spread by local mosquitos. The action was decided despite the protests of residents, who claim that Naled, the powerful insecticide that is to used, could be even more harmful.
The spraying had been set to begin on Thursday but federal officials agreed to delay it 24-hours in order to give local officials more time to better inform residents and tourists. The area to be sprayed includes trendy South Beach.
“We don’t want to be known as the community that allowed Zika to spread,” said Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who made the announcement with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Their announcement followed a closed-door telephone conference with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That conference was held after the Miami Beach officials held a three-hour informational session that had been marked by protests.
The opposition was led by City Commissioner Michael Grieco. “Knowing from my own research that there is a controversy about Naled, and also the Zika/ Microcephaly connection, I thought it was suspect that all the ‘experts’ at this meeting were in favor of spraying Naled," he said in a statement afterwards.
Over the past months, the evidence that Zika causes microcephaly, a serious birth defect in which babies are born with small heads and severe brain damage, has been mounting. The CDC says it's confirmed Zika is the cause and the World Health Organization Wednesday called the virus "the most likely explanation" for the birth defect.
But the protesters pointed to a preliminary study published in June the New England Journal of Medicine which looked at nearly 12,000 pregnant Colombian women with clinical signs of Zika and found that none had given birth to a baby with the abnormality.
Dr. Christine Curry, a University of Miami obstetrician, appealed emotionally to the audience, urging them to put the welfare of the pregnant women and their babies first. "I have been treating pregnant women with Zika since March, which means that since then, I have been looking at their ultrasound images with them and letting them cry on my shoulder. They’re scared. I’m scared,” she said.
To date, 80 pregnant women in Florida have become infected. Of these, Curry has cared for 15. One of those women gave birth to a baby with the microcephaly and another showed signs of an abnormality. The other babies are being monitored, she said.
According to Gimenez, Naled, which is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, has been used in Miami-Dade County for 40 years. “I remember Naled being sprayed since I was a kid,” he said. During the meeting, Gimenez stated that the pesticide had been sprayed over Miami Beach two years ago, but afterwards, he said he had been mistaken, and it had never been sprayed in the city.
The spraying operation, which will take place over the 1.5 square-mile Miami Beach Zika zone, is to be carried out over a four-week period, which begins this Friday and Sunday. It will then repeated for the next two Sundays to avoid school children that might be outside waiting for their bus.
The spraying was ordered on Tuesday when inspections showed the number of mosquitos rebounding in Miami Beach after Labor Day weekend.
Although there are thousands of cases of Zika across the U.S., transmission of homegrown Zika – meaning local mosquitos spread it – is only occurring in two areas of the country – Miami Beach and the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood.
When the Miami Beach Zika was discovered last month, the CDC assured Miami Beach officials that spraying would not be appropriate, given the city’s high-rise buildings and ocean proximity. But the replacing of planes with helicopters would make the plan workable, the officials said.
The Zika virus can make anyone sick for up to a week with the following flu-like symptoms:
- Joint pain.
- Red eyes.
There is no vaccine or treatment for the virus, making prevention essential. Health experts recommend taking the following precautions:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants outdoors.
- Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes breed.
- Use repellents to keep mosquitoes away.
- Use air conditioning and window screens if possible.
- Call your health care provider if you are at risk of infection.
Last month, Consumer Reports released new rankings of mosquito repellents that offer the best protection against Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, the type that carry the Zika virus. They tested products containing deet, plantlike ingredients lemon eucalyptus and picaridin. The most effective products:
- Sawyer Fisherman's Formula Picaridin.
- Natrapel 8 Hour, with 20 percent picaridin.
- Off! Deepwoods VIII, w/25 percent deet.
- Repel Lemon Eucalyptus.
The magazine also recommended skipping products made with natural plant oils, such as California Baby Natural Bug Blend (a blend of citronella, lemongrass oil, cedar oil, and other ingredients) and EcoSmart Organic, (which includes geraniol, rosemary oil, cinnamon oil, and lemongrass oil).
Women who are pregnant or breast feeding can safely use deet, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535, according to the EPA.
Other tips for using insect repellents safely and effectively:
- Apply repellents sparingly, and only to exposed skin or clothing.
- Don’t apply repellents over cuts, wounds, irritated skin, or after shaving.
- When applying to your face, spray first on your hands, then rub in, avoiding your eyes and mouth.
- Don’t let young children apply repellents themselves
- Don’t use near food, and wash hands after application and before eating.
- At the end of the day, wash treated skin with soap and water, and wash treated clothing in a separate wash before wearing again.
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