Aerial spraying aimed at killing mosquitoes in Miami begins

Planes spray pesticides over Wynwood early Thursday morning

MIAMI – Aerial spraying to kill mosquitoes took place Thursday morning, a day after weather postponed the original flight.

The plane took off from Miami Executive Airport at 6 a.m. and was scheduled to be in the air for one hour, spraying pesticides over Miami's Wynwood neighborhood.

The crew and aircraft used in the operation was flown in from Sarasota. The King Air Beechcraft fixed-wing, dual-engine plane is specially equipped with nozzles on the wing to disperse the chemical, called Naled, that is meant to kill adult mosquitoes that could be carrying the Zika virus.

Naled can cause respiratory problems in people who are exposed to it  and long term exposure can cause possible neurological problems, according to Cornell University. 

The CDC said their method shouldn't cause health concerns. 

"That way it's used aerially is with very tiny volume. It's called ultra low volume," Dr. Thomas Frieden, who heads the CDC. "It's less than one ounce per acre.  Where this has been studied around the country, there has been no measurable increase in the level of level Naled or breakdown products in people's body after they spray."

Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott said pregnant women statewide can get a free test to determine whether they've been infected with the mosquito-borne virus.

Scott directed state health officials Wednesday to make the tests available at county health departments and also said the state would provide additional lab services to handle the expected increase to ensure test results are processed quickly.

Wednesday's announcement comes as some doctors have complained they were being forced to ration test kits and turn away pregnant women who were requesting them.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava sent a letter Thursday to Mayor Carlos Gimenez stating that she has requested an emergency commission meeting "to discuss our response to the public health threats posed by the Zika virus."

The area of concentration is in Wynwood, between Northwest Fifth Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard to Northwest 38th Street and Northwest 20th Street.

Health officials said Thursday that they expect to see an increase in the number of people locally infected by the virus.

"We would not be surprised to see additional infections diagnosed in this 500-square-foot area. That is the way the Zika (virus) works," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said at a news conference.

Tourists Local 10 News reporter Michael Seiden spoke to Thursday said they were concerned but not afraid to be in the area.

"I was just getting articles, 'Don't go to Wynwood' and repetitive (comments) like, 'I love you. Don't go to Wynwood. This is your mom. Watch out, the Zika virus,'" Jordan Benisty, who is visiting from Canada, said.

Gimenez directed the county's Mosquito Control team on Tuesday to begin larvicide and adulticide aerial spraying in the 10-square-mile area where locally acquired cases of the Zika virus have been reported or are being investigated, but weather conditions Wednesday postponed the spraying until Thursday.

The plane and crew will fly back to Sarasota after the spray Thursday morning, but Mayor Gimenez has ordered aerial spraying to continue every seven days for the next four weeks.


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