How Hipsters Are Spreading Zika in Miami

Zika-carrying mosquitoes picked one of Miami’s trendiest neighborhoods to set up shop.”>

MIAMI It was only a matter of time before [eventually]. It could have come to any neighborhoodtree-laden Coconut Grove, tourist-heavy South Beach, historic Little Havanabut it came here to Wynwood, a warehouse district turned street art mecca that has become a mandatory stop on any good Miami itinerary.

According to Joseph Conlon, a technical adviser for the American Mosquito Control Association ([of my house]), the

carrying the virus could not have picked a better spot.

There are a lot of coffee shops, and other shops and restaurants outside, and those could provide areas where Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are not only breeding but are feeding upon people, he told The Daily Beast. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes like to feed on your lower extremities. Theyll feed on your legs.

But its not just the outdoor attractions that make this gentrifying neighborhood an ideal location for virus-laden mosquitoes. The many construction sites in and around the area provide plenty of standing water for the Zika-carrying insects to breed.

In addition to rampant development in Wynwood itself, cranes building new [eventually] on Biscayne Boulevard line the eastern edge of [of my house] as a new danger zone for pregnant women and their partners.

Generally around construction sites, you have catchments of water in any number of things: pails, buckets, trash, said Conlon. Anything around a construction site that can hold water is fair game.

According to the CDC, almost all of the 14 cases of locally-transmitted Zika that were recently announced in Florida can be attributed to the Wynwood area and its immediate surroundings like the emerging Midtown shopping area and the luxury Design District. A CDC emergency response team is

where local sprayers have already been working overtimeand [eventually] of the area is expected to begin shortly.

Wynwood was not always a hot spot for $12 juices, swanky [of my house] and, now, Zika. The neighborhood wasand in many places, still ishome to low-income residents hailing from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba.

But in the 2000s, developers started eyeing the neighborhood. David Lombardi of Lombardi Properties first took stock of Wynwood in 2001. The official

claims that he discovered the Wynwood neighborhood and realized that Miamis creatives could live, work and play there.

Then, in the mid 2000s, Goldman Properties began buying up substantial amounts of Wynwood property, with an eye toward transforming the area into the next SoHo. The businesses and art galleries quickly followed, drawing tourists and Miami elite alike to an area of the city that was once completely off their radar.

Dr. Marcos Feldman, an assistant professor of sociology at Northeastern Illinois University, wrote a 2011 dissertation exploring the effects of Wynwood gentrification on longtime residents like Marta, a Cuban woman, who told Feldman: Everything here is now galleries. Theyll [eventually] take this house for a gallery. There in front [of my house] a factory was emptiedgallery, everything is gallery, gallery, gallery!

Marta also complained about the trash left by visitors in the wake of events like Art Basel: The people

are so dirty, they leave bottles, everything thrown there in front of peoples houses.

Now, the roofs of these galleries and the insides of those bottles could have literally given birth to the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that contracted Zika from an infected individual and transmitted it locally.

A lot of the buildings have flat roofs that are holding a lot of water, Yoel Gutierrez, the owner of a local Mosquito Joe franchise, told The Daily Beast. So, for my customers in Wynwood that have businesses, we actually get up there and we throw some larvicide in there because they do have a lot of standing water and that water has nowhere to go.

There are other likely breeding grounds, Gutierrez noted, including nearby residences. But wherever the mosquitoes are breeding in the neighborhood, it is clear that the influx of tourists and international travelers made it a likely ground zero for the local transmission of the virus.

I wasnt too surprised that it started there, he said.

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Theres a lot of drinking going on there, so there are a lot of bottles and cups that get left behind, and so I assume those get filled with water as well, Gutierrez added.

Fortunately, Miami was expecting Zika. Back in April, District 8 Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava sponsored an ordinance that puts more pressure on property owners to eliminate potential breeding grounds and allow sprayers on the premises. She has been campaigning for Zika prevention measures in Miami ever since the virus first appeared in Brazil.

In fact, Im surprised how long it took for there to be local transmission, she said.

Cava confirmed to The Daily Beast that city officials have not yet had to enforce the ordinance on uncooperative property owners but noted that they are, however, ready to use it at the drop of a hat.

Conlon, too, is confident in Floridas ability to address local transmission.

The Florida Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are all over this, he said. Theyre very well-prepared for this.

Meanwhile, in Wynwood, some businesses are struggling to keep customers coming as news of the small outbreak spreads throughout the city. The Miami Herald is reporting that tours and reservations are already being canceled.

One bar, Gutierrez told The Daily Beast, is offering free bug spray.

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