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Florida declares neighborhood Zika free; CDC remains cautious

93 Zika cases in Florida caused by local mosquitoes

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By Julie Steenhuysen and Ransdell Pierson, Reuters

MIAMI — U.S. health officials on Monday continued to advise pregnant women and their partners to consider postponing non-essential travel to Miami to avoid the risk of exposure to Zika, even as Florida Governor Rick Scott declared the city’s Wynwood neighborhood Zika-free and invited visitors to return.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement that the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami had been considered an area of active Zika virus transmission from June 15 to Sept. 18, 2016. It urged pregnant women who lived in or traveled to the neighborhood to consider getting tested for Zika.

“We want to continue to emphasize to pregnant women that they still should consider postponing non-essential travel for all of Miami-Dade (County). That is still in effect,” said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner.

Wynwood is the first neighborhood in the continental United States to have a local outbreak of Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that has been shown to cause birth defects.

Florida’s governor, at a news conference earlier on Monday, said there have not been any cases of Zika in the Wynwood neighborhood in the past 45 days, and declared that “everybody should be coming back here and enjoying themselves.”

“We had an issue, everybody took it seriously and we solved it,” he said.

Scott’s pronouncement followed news on Friday that the state had expanded the zone with active Zika transmission to nearby Miami Beach after five new cases of the virus were detected.

The Zika zone in Miami Beach, a popular tourist destination, tripled in size, growing from 1.5 square miles to 4.5 square miles. As of Friday, Florida has a total of 93 cases of Zika caused by local mosquitoes.

Zika is a particular threat to pregnant women because the virus can cause serious birth defects in babies whose mothers were infected during pregnancy, including microcephaly, a condition in which the brain is undersized, reflecting arrested development.

Scott also called on the U.S. government to approve spending to arrest any future spread of the virus in Florida and elsewhere, including funds for mosquito abatement, education and testing for Zika. A spending bill has been delayed in Congress.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins, Julie Steenhuysen and Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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