Florida finds Zika in local mosquitoes, bromeliads blamed

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

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 centres, providing excellent breeding areas for mosquitoes amid their colourful 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 yesterday ordered the county to immediately conduct aerial spraying by helicopter as recommended by the CDC.

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 US Centres for Disease Control 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.

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.

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