Another round of aerial spraying in Miami Beach using Naled appears certain for Sunday, as the number of Zika cases continues to rise and a local attempt to stop the operation failed on Wednesday.
Miami Beach is one of the only two areas in the U.S. where the virus is being locally transmitted. At a Miami Beach Commission meeting today, residents packed the chambers, urging a halt in the spraying, which uses the powerful pesticide Naled. But the move failed, paving the way for the next round of spraying early Sunday morning.
The aerial spraying in the city, which includes touristy South Beach, began Sept. 9, after it was ordered by Miami-Dade County. The move was also backed by the governor’s office, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in hopes of stopping the spread of locally transmitted Zika, a mosquito-born disease that causes devastating birth defects.
On Wednesday, Florida’s state health department officials reported an additional homegrown case in Miami Beach, raising the total to 71 Florida residents who have acquired the disease. Earlier this week, eight more homegrown cases had been reported, four associated with Miami Beach, and one identified from Wynwood, the Miami neighborhood where homegrown Zika was first found in the U.S. This brings to 805 the total number of both homegrown and travel related cases in the state.
At the meeting, Commissioner Michael Grieco offered a motion directing the city to go for an injunction to halt the spraying. His move failed after Miami Beach City Attorney Raul J. Aguila told the commission it would likely be futile. “Under state law, this is not the commission’s final say, they are not the ones in control here,” he said.
However Commissioner Kristen Rose Gonzalez’s motion, which calls upon the county to "urgently" explore alternative, less toxic measures, passed. “If poison falls on the sky it’s not only falling on you, it’s falling on me too. But we don’t want lawsuits, we want independent research we can trust,” Gonzalez told the protestors, who repeatedly interrupted her calls for “No More Naled.”
Since the spraying began, residents have sent emails to city officials complaining of getting sick, local resident Michael Capponi told the panel. “We have children and we have parents who have been sick from this poison, we’ve had people write letters with pictures of children’s rashes – so when they say my kid has a stomach ache, my kid is throwing up, this is a pretty serious situation,” he said.
Naled, which is a neurotoxin, is a controversial pesticide that has been banned by the European Union. But it is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and has been used in Florida since the 1950’s, although this is the first time it is being sprayed over Miami Beach.
While there are currently thousands of cases of Zika in the U.S., Miami Beach and Wynwood are the only two zones where the mosquito-born virus is being locally transmitted, the CDC says.
Zika poses a threat to pregnant women because it causes microcephaly, a particularly devastating birth defect that causes babies to be born with too-small heads and brain damage.
Since the Zika crisis began, “at least” two babies in the state have been born with microcephaly, Dr. Anna Marie Likos of the Florida State Health Department, told the panel. Florida health officials have been monitoring 86 women, and of these, 40 have given birth. The other babies are being monitored out of concern that problems could show up later, Likos added.
The virus is also being blamed for other neurological ailments in adults, including Guillain-Barre, which is a syndrome occurring in adults that causes temporary paralysis.
In an estimated four-out-of five cases, Zika has no symptoms, so the City of Miami Beach has been offering free testing for residents living and working there.
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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