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Florida Officials Trace Zika To Local Mosquitoes In 4 Recent Cases


In Florida today, health officials confirmed something they had been expecting. The state has its first cases of Zika contracted from local mosquitoes. There are four cases so far, and they all appear related to one neighborhood in Miami. Here's more from NPR's Greg Allen.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: The Miami neighborhood where Zika has been found, the Wynwood Arts District, is a place that sees a lot of visitors. They include many from Latin America and the Caribbean where Zika is already established. For two weeks now, health officials have tested residents and mosquitoes in the area. They haven't found any mosquitoes that test positive for the virus but have ruled out other forms of transmission. Governor Rick Scott says Florida has planned for this day since February when the state saw the first travel-related Zika case.

RICK SCOTT: The state is prepared, and we've been prepared. We think about this just like we do a hurricane. The way you do well of this is you get ready.

ALLEN: Scott has allocated some $26 million in state funds in efforts to prevent and respond to Zika. In Miami, mosquito control inspectors are going door to door in the affected neighborhood, using hand-held sprayers and talking to residents about the need to use repellent and check their properties for standing water. Florida officials say they're confident that through aggressive mosquito control they'll be able to contain local Zika transmission and limit its spread.

Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip says the state had good success in recent years controlling dengue and chikungunya, other diseases carried by the same mosquito that spreads Zika.

CELESTE PHILIP: We hope to mirror the successes we've seen with other mosquito-borne illnesses, and we believe that at this time the likelihood of ongoing transmission is low.

ALLEN: Zika is of course of great concern to pregnant women because the virus can lead to birth defects including microcephaly. The CDC has warned pregnant women or those planning to get pregnant to avoid travel to places with widespread Zika transmission like Brazil and Puerto Rico. CDC director Tom Frieden says a travel advisory isn't necessary for the small cluster of cases in Miami. Because of window screens and air conditioning, he says, Zika is not likely to spread here.

TOM FRIEDEN: We don't expect widespread transmission in the continental U.S., and if, however, we were to see continuing spread in this area or somewhere else or explosive spread, then we would absolutely issue travel guidance.

ALLEN: The White House recently sent Florida $5.6 million to help it respond to Zika. With the first four cases of local transmission, Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott and President Obama now find themselves in a rare agreement on the need for Congress to approve the president's request for nearly $2 billion in Zika funding. 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.