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Zika spreads to Miami Beach, US expands travel warning

The new warnings represent a challenge to Florida’s multibillion dollar tourism industry

Published: Updated:

Federal health officials on Friday warned pregnant women not to travel to trendy Miami Beach after Florida confirmed that the mosquito-borne Zika virus was active in the popular tourist destination.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also suggested that pregnant women who are especially worried about exposure to Zika - which has been shown to cause the severe birth defect known as microcephaly - might consider avoiding all of Miami-Dade County.

The new warnings represent a challenge to Florida’s multibillion dollar tourism industry, with Miami Beach accounting for nearly half of visitor stays in the Greater Miami area. They also heighten concerns over Zika’s spread in the continental United States.

In a press conference, Florida Governor Rick Scott said state health officials had identified five cases of Zika believed to be contracted in Miami Beach.

“This means we believe we have a new area where local transmissions are occurring in Miami Beach,” he said, noting that the state had already stepped up pesticide spraying efforts in this area.

The new transmissions come as Miami-Dade continues to battle Zika in the Wynwood arts neighborhood of Miami, the site of the first locally transmitted cases of Zika in the continental United States.

In Miami Beach, the state believes Zika transmission is confined to a 1.5-square-mile area located between 8th and 28th streets in the popular South Beach neighborhood.