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Officials Urge Continued Attention To Zika In Little River

Florida Gov. Rick Scott poses with students at St. Mary Cathedral School in Miami's Little River neighborhood, prior to a Zika roundtable with local officials.
Kate Stein
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Florida Governor Rick Scott hosted a Zika preparedness roundtable in Miami's Little River neighborhood on Friday, responding to a request by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.

The governor said there are seven local cases of Zika confirmed in the 1-square-mile area of Little River, and that Florida has not yet received Zika prevention and research funding approved by Congress at the end of September.

But the main focus of the day was on education. Scott and other officials reiterated the need for Zika prevention education, and fittingly, the meeting was at St. Mary Cathedral School. The principal, Sister Michelle Hernandez, said families there -- especially families with pregnant moms -- are being offered information on Zika prevention, and kids are being taught to wear bug spray and drain standing water.

For better or worse, Hernandez says her students aren’t overly concerned.

"Most of them are Haitian, and in Haiti there are a lot of mosquitoes, but they don’t seem concerned because they’ve gotten bit by a mosquito before and it hasn’t caused Zika," she said.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez attended the event and commended education efforts, but said there's a need for continuing awareness of the virus.

Zika "used to be on page one, and now it's on page 10," he said. "The number one thing we can do" to prevent the virus's spread "is education."

Giménez said the county has no plans for aerial spraying in Little River because mosquito counts there are low.

Officials encouraged pregnant women to get tested for the virus. That testing is available for free at all county health departments in Florida. Miami-Dade County has two Zika testing clinics for pregnant women: one downtown at 1350 NW 14th St. and one at 18255 Homestead Ave. in West Perrine.

As of Friday, there are 1,051 cases of Zika in Florida. That includes 169 locally acquired infections, 747 travel-related infections, 19 cases in people who live outside Florida, five cases where the origin could not be determined, and 111 cases in pregnant women. The Florida Department of Health does not release locations of Zika cases in pregnant women.

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Kate Stein can't quite explain what attracts her to South Florida. It's more than just the warm weather (although this Wisconsin native and Northwestern University graduate definitely appreciates the South Florida sunshine). It has a lot to do with being able to travel from the Everglades to Little Havana to Brickell without turning off 8th Street. It's also related to Stein's fantastic coworkers, whom she first got to know during a winter 2016 internship.Officially, Stein is WLRN's environment, data and transportation journalist. Privately, she uses her job as an excuse to rove around South Florida searching for stories à la Carl Hiaasen and Edna Buchanan. Regardless, Stein speaks Spanish and is always thrilled to run, explore and read.