Meeting Mentor Magazine

June 2023

Keeping an Eye on Zika

The spread of the Zika virus and consequent travel impacts is a story MeetingMentor has been following throughout the year. The mosquito-borne virus, which can be sexually transmitted, can result in severe birth defects to babies when pregnant women are infected. Here’s a look at the latest developments as 2016 draws to a close.

In November, the World Health Organization (WHO) lifted a nine-month-old emergency declaration against Zika. Calling the virus “a significant and enduring threat,” the agency said it is shifting to a longer-term approach against the virus. Zika has spread across Latin America and the Caribbean, and nearly 30 countries have reported birth defects linked to the virus, according to the WHO.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that it is working with Texas health officials on what may be that state’s first case of locally acquired Zika infection. CDC officials said Zika has been diagnosed in a resident of Brownsville who has no other known risk factors for contracting the disease, such as sexual transmission or travel to an area where the virus is widespread. (Brownsville borders Mexico.) Texas health officials stepped up surveillance and spraying to control mosquitoes, and are testing for Zika to determine if there have been additional infections in the area.

If the Texas case is confirmed, Texas and Florida would be the two states in the country with active local transmission of the virus. Florida reported its first case in July in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, followed by cases in Miami Beach and the Little River neighborhood. However, two weeks ago, the CDC lifted a travel advisory on nearly two-thirds of Miami Beach streets previously seen as a breeding site for the mosquitos carrying the virus.

The CDC and the Florida Department of Health believe Zika’s spread has stopped in these areas, given that no new contraction of the virus has been found in 45 days. Pregnant women are still advised not to travel to South Miami Beach and the Little River area (from 28th Street to Eighth Street).

In a local press conference in late November, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau President & CEO William D. Talbert III said the CDC’s move was “an indication that the program set forth by our government partners is working and Greater Miami is ready to be a model-destination in dealing with Zika and any other mosquito borne-illness.”

According to the CDC, a total of 4,444 cases of Zika have been reported in the continental U.S. and Hawaii as of November 23, including 182 infections spread locally by mosquitoes. — Regina McGee

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