South Florida: an insight in the Zika virus

August 18, 2016

Miami has been significantly affected by the news of a Zika outbreak this summer creating widespread local and national reports of the rising cases and spread of the virus, business closings, travel warnings and concern for effects on business as well as the real estate market. Dubbed the ground zero of locally transmitted Zika cases by the New York Times, the entire city has been placed under the microscope for one small, less than one-square mile area of Miami’s 2,400 total square miles.

Wynwood, the name synonymous with Zika transmissions has the city on preparedness overdrive as planes take to the sky with insecticides, mosquito repellants are emptied on store shelves and people take to the summer heat in long clothing to avoid getting bitten. Tourists and visitors who flock to the beach, restaurants and entertainment venues throughout the city have been warned to avoid Wynwood altogether.  Miami Beach, a tourist hotspot has been added to the list of transmission zones following reports of a handful of cases.

More recently five people have been infected by Zika locally in Miami Beach, including three tourists, Governor Rick Scott confirmed in a news conference. Active transmission on Miami Beach which has an estimate population of over 92,312, are limited to an area just under 1.5 (square) miles from 8th Street to 28th Street. The mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine, stated in an interview to the New York Times, that residents can expect to see Zika popping up here and there, but cautioned that it was not an epidemic. To date the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added Miami Beach to Zika travel warning, telling pregnant women specifically, to avoid the area.

Health officials in Florida began preparedness tactics months ahead of local transmission while travel-related cases were being reported. Gov. Scott, who visited the Zika zone in Wynwood, took a number of steps including ordering a declaration of a public health emergency, requesting 5,000 Zika preparedness kits from Health and Human Services, allocating $26.2 million in state funds for Zika preparedness, prevention and response in Florida and other measures fight the possible spread of the virus.

Miami-Dade county mayor, Carlos Gimenez with urging from the CDC and Florida Department of Health deployed a mosquito control team which sprayed the affected to head off future danger while the number of reported cases is relatively small. To date, the state health department has found less than 20 locally acquired cases in a population of 12.7 million. The Florida outbreak is not considered widespread and visitors and residents have been avoiding risks of infection by taking necessary and recommended precautions issued by health officials. Wynwood is still the only active local transmission zone which is now being treated with insecticides. All evidence of Zika transmission is attributed to limited, localized transmission.

About Zika Virus

The Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species female mosquito. These are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses. The mosquitoes breed in or near standing water and are predominately active during the daytime, even though they can also bite at night. Zika can also be spread through sex, blood transfusion and from mother to child during pregnancy but once infected; a person is protected from future infections.

Living or traveling to infected zones risk increase exposure to becoming infected. Infected persons diagnosed by blood or urine testing do not always demonstrate symptoms, but when symptoms are present they include fever, rash, red eyes, joint pain, muscle pain and headache. No are no vaccines or treatments for the virus which lasts for several days and up to a week.

Prevention and protection practices such as wearing long clothing, insect repellants and other precautionary measures can be taken to avoid being bitten by infect mosquitoes. Serious warnings are advised for babies, pregnant women and those persons intending to get pregnant, as the virus poses a risk of the microcephaly, a birth defect of the brain that occurs in fetus as well as other related problems and defects such as the rare Guillain-Barré syndrome, which affects the nervous system.

Women who have been infected by the virus are advised to wait 8 weeks and men with Zika should wait at least 6 months after symptoms began to try to get pregnant. Adults infected with Zika should refrain from sex during the infection period and practice normal wellness care to treat symptoms such as over the counter fever reducers, fluid for dehydration and rest.

Zika in the United States

Mosquito-borne Zika virus transmissions have been identified throughout the continental United States. As of August 2016 less than 2,000 laboratory-confirmed Zika virus disease cases have been reported in the US with New York, Miami, Texas, California and Pennsylvania rounding out the top 5 cities reporting travel-related cases. Many of these cases are linked to International travel to US Territories, the Caribbean and Latin America. With the end of the summer months, mosquito transmission is anticipated to reduce drastically in areas with seasonal changes.

Local Transmission – Miami and the Beaches

While the entire State of Florida is on high alert, cases of non-travel related Zika Virus has arrived in one neighborhood of Miami and a small section of Miami Beach. Wynwood, part of a one square mile area in Miami-Dade County just North of Downtown and seven miles from the island of Miami Beach, has been identified as the epicenter of the Zika transmission by the CDC and Florida Department of Health. FDA and CDC issued travel warnings for the Wynwood neighborhood which is primarily made up of businesses and retail spaces for entertainment and recreational activities. Residents in surrounding areas as well as visitors have been cautioned to avoid travel to the area. Pregnant women and their partners, specifically, are advised not to travel to Wynwood.  Over 20 cases have been reported from persons infected in the area and outside boundaries. Wynwood Yard, an outdoor eatery and event space was the first business in Miami to temporarily close its doors after concerns for employees and patrons were heightened from virus transmission confirmed by health officials.

Elected officials as well as Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton arrived in Wynwood on August 9th urging Congress to return to Washington and pass emergency funding for the Zika response, testing, treatment and research during the visit.  President Barack Obama has also requested $1.9 billion to develop a vaccine and control the mosquitoes that carry the virus. The Florida Department of Health believe and confirm that active transmissions are still only limited to the identified Wynwood area. The Yard was reopened on Aug. 10th after a concentrated week of spraying throughout Wynwood and many businesses in the area continue to operate normally, encouraging visitors to take precaution or avoid the area completely.

Effect on Business and Real Estate Market

The Zika virus is not considered widespread in Florida; isolated International travel-related infections make up the vast majority of cases, as well as the limited number of local transmissions from the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami and a handful of cases in Miami Beach. New reports have confirmed that airlines have seen negligible cancellations in travel, while hotels haven’t reported any significant changes in room bookings according to Rolando Aedo, chief marketing officer of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.  Businesses in the Zika zone, specifically, have  remain open although some have seen sharp declines in patrons and slowed traffic as residents and visitors are advised to avoid the area. Some business owners are now appealing to visitors that with extensive insecticide spraying and other measures to reduce the mosquito population, transmission in the area has been drastically reduced.

There are no major residential projects in Wynwood, and neighboring areas with high residential populations such as Midtown, Edgewater and Downtown are operating normally with precautions and widespread spraying. Although there are concerns about future long term effects if the Zika Virus continues, the Miami Real Estate market overall has not been affected by the current conditions. Construction on new developments throughout the city continues and real estate agents dispute any vulnerability of the market or fears that the virus could reduce overall real estate values, stating that rents even in the affected zones have remained. Experts agree that it is too early to predict the full impact this condition will create, if any especially when measures by the government and local officials are ahead of any possible long-term outbreak.


Zika in Florida

  • There are less than 20 cases of local transmission from mosquitoes in Miami specifically and so far only 5 on Miami Beach, three of which are tourists.
  • About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).
  • Most people are not at risk of serious disease from a Zika infection.
  • Zika mosquitoes are female only and aggressive daytime biters but can be active at night.
  •  The virus is spread via bites from infected mosquitoes and/or sex from an infected person.
  • Once infected, you cannot be re-infected.
  • Symptoms of the Virus are usually mild, last up to a week and remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days or more in some people. Deaths are rare.
  • Babies, Pregnant women or those who plan to become pregnant are most seriously cautioned to avoid travel infected areas and exposure to mosquitoes or infected sex partners.
  • The virus is not considered to have long term effects on Males

Zika Hot Zone: Wynwood

  • The Florida Department of Health has identified Wynwood, a neighborhood of Miami, as the only affected zone in South Florida.
  • Wynwood is home to over 300 businesses mainly art galleries, retail spaces, restaurants, museums and shopping centers.
  • Areas outside of the transmission zones on the mainland or on Island communities have not been affected.
  • Miami Beach has been confirmed to have five local cases.


Zika Prevention In Progress:

  • Aerial spraying with Naled insecticide used to kill larvae, young and adult mosquitoes limiting the spread of the disease.
  • Door to door hand spraying in affected areas
  • Chemical applications to kill larvae
  • The FDA has released an assessment for genetically engineered mosquitoes bred to stop Zika,reduce the mosquito population and thereby reduce the risk of local transmission of the disease.
  • Insect repellant are sold and distributed for residents and visitors
  • Dress in long clothing is advised for travel during the daytime hours when mosquitoes are more active
  • The FDA has issue plans to keep blood supply safe as well authorization for emergency use oftest for detection purposes of Zika in human serum, plasma, and urine.


Travel Advisories


  • The CDC has issue travel warnings for specific countries outside of the US.
  • Travel to Florida has not been affected by the outbreak, but Advisories are in place for specific neighborhoods with limited transmission reports.
  • Advisory has only been issued mainly to women, and those living in or traveling specifically to Wynwood, a small art and entertainment district of Miami.
  • The outbreak has had no effect on commercial deals in Wynwood, or residential sales in Midtown Miami or any parts of the Miami-Dade County.

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