Florida finds Zika in local mosquitoes, bromeliads blamed

Florida finds Zika in local mosquitoes, bromeliads blamed

MIAMI – The Associated Press
Florida finds Zika in local mosquitoes, bromeliads blamed

Tourist Carley Genao, foreground left, of New Jersey, and Nicole Sanchez, foreground right, of New York, cross the street as they head to their hotel, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in the South Beach area of Miami Beach, Fla. AP photo

Florida has found the Zika virus in three groups of mosquitoes trapped in Miami Beach - the first time this has happened in the continental U.S. - and authorities are blaming a particular flower for making mosquito control much more difficult.

The Zika-carrying mosquitoes were trapped in a touristy 1.5-square-mile area of South Beach identified as a zone of active transmission of the virus, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said in a news release.

“This is the first time we have found a Zika virus positive mosquito pool in the continental United States,” confirmed Erin Sykes, a CDC spokeswoman.

Finding the virus in mosquitoes has been likened by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to finding a needle in a haystack, but the testing helps mosquito controllers target their efforts, and it confirms that the insects themselves, in addition to infected humans, have begun transmitting the virus inside the mainland United States.

One of the traps that tested positive was at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, where bromeliads bloom. The plants trap standing water in their cylindrical centers, providing excellent breeding areas for mosquitoes amid their colorful flowers and pointy leaves.

“Everyone should know by now that bromeliads are really problematic for us. These are probably the number one breeding area for mosquitoes,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

He said Miami Beach is removing all bromeliads from its landscaping, and urged residents across the county to either pull them out or rinse them after every rain.

And with Hurricane Hermine bringing much more rain to Florida, Gov. Rick Scott on Sept. 1 ordered the county to immediately conduct aerial spraying by helicopter as recommended by the CDC.

The illness spreads from people to mosquitoes to people again through bites, but the insects do not spread the disease among their own population, and their lifespan is just a few weeks.

A poll released Sept. 1 suggests nearly 48 percent of Americans are wary of traveling to U.S. destinations where people have been infected with Zika through mosquito bites.

The Kaiser Family Foundation survey also found 61 percent felt uneasy about traveling to Zika zones outside the U.S. mainland, including Puerto Rico.