Thanks to a particularly dry winter season, the Aedes aegypti mosquito species has been relatively dormant in South Florida and no new cases of locally acquired Zika virus have been reported by the Florida Department of Health as of the end of March 2017.
The last of the warnings for active ongoing transmission of Zika in Miami Dade County were lifted in early December 2016.
But with the return of temperatures to the mid to upper 80s, and the impending approach of the rainy season, the threat of mosquito regeneration and risk of Zika transmission returns.
To date, the FDOH reports 25 cases of travel-related Zika infection being monitored in South Florida; these are cases involving travelers who have returned from areas where the virus is being transmitted. In addition, 2 cases of locally acquired virus are being monitored, but they are thought to be in residents who were infected last year in Miami Dade.
Since December, no new cases of locally-acquired infection have been reported in the state.
Nonetheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is maintaining warnings for pregnant women to “consider postponing travel to Miami-Dade County. If you are pregnant and must travel or if you live or work in Miami Dade County, protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing insect repellent, long clothing and limiting your time outdoors. “
The FDOH reports that though the state no longer has any identified areas with active Zika transmission, it is possible that there will be isolated cases of local transmission and residents and visitors to Miami Dade should remain vigilant about mosquito bite protection.
Work on Zika vaccine enters new stage
In the meantime, the Associated Press reports that the CDC has begun enrolling volunteers for second- stage testing of an experimental vaccine to protect against Zika. The first stage of a DNA-derived vaccine began last year and showed no significant side effects in study volunteers—allowing testing to move on to the second stage—to determine efficacy.
The AP reports that in this second stage, researchers will evaluate 90 healthy adults given different doses of the vaccine to determine the most effective one. The tests will be done at Baylor University in Texas, the University of Miami, and the University of Puerto Rico.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told AP that if Zika causes lots of illness this year, researchers may find clues about how well the vaccine works by early 2018.
Stay tuned for reports throughout the summer
Though the emergence of the Zika virus caused intense concern about its economic effect on Florida tourism, Miami area hotels, resorts and other tourism-related industries reported a better-than-average year for visitors and a positive economic impact.
We will be monitoring the trends in Zika development in South Florida and other areas in the Americas throughout the summer as events develop. Stay with us and we’ll give you the latest, most reliable news and advice about how to stay safe and still enjoy your travels.
Are you ready to embrace the Miami heat? Get some travel insurance to boot!