Pregnant women warned to avoid Miami Beach

US federal health officials are warning pregnant women not to travel to Miami Beach after Florida confirms the Zika virus is active there.

MIAMI BEACH • With the Zika virus spreading to Miami Beach, federal health officials have advised pregnant women not to visit a 20-block stretch of one of the country's most alluring tourist destinations. They also told them to consider postponing travel anywhere in Miami-Dade county.

The escalation of the Zika crisis here has sent tremors through the tourism industry and stoked the fears of pregnant women worried about the virus' ability to cause severe brain damage in infants.

The advisory from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was prompted by the discovery of a second zone of local Zika transmission in an area between Eighth and 28th streets in Miami Beach that includes the heart of South Beach.

Officials said five people, including travellers, had been infected there. The other area where mosquitoes are spreading the virus is in the Miami neighbourhood of Wynwood.

Dr Thomas Frieden, the CDC director, warned on Friday that more cases of local Zika transmission are likely to emerge in the county.

Combating the mosquitoes that carry Zika will not be easy in Miami Beach, health officials warned. The county has successfully used aerial spraying in the Wynwood neighbourhood but will not be able to use that tactic in Miami Beach because of its high-rises and high winds, Dr Frieden said. And there is the swimsuit factor.

"We don't think our advice to wear long sleeves and long pants is likely to be widely followed in some of these areas," Dr Frieden said.

Despite Friday's developments, health officials said they remained confident that the virus would not turn into a major epidemic in the continental United States as it had across Latin America and the Caribbean.

So far, 36 cases of locally transmitted Zika have been identified, all in Florida, and 25 of them are linked to an area around two small businesses in Wynwood, north of downtown.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 21, 2016, with the headline 'Pregnant women warned to avoid Miami Beach'. Print Edition | Subscribe