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Zika Concerns Prompt Street By Street Sweep & Call For More Funding

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A minor setback in the battle to wipe out mosquitoes that may be carrying the Zika virus in South Florida.

Aerial spraying scheduled to get underway Wednesday morning was canceled due to inclement weather.

"Crews will continue to work on the ground today in the affected area, and will respond to service requests and any requests from the Florida Department of Health," said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in a statement. "I thank our residents for continuing to do their part to protect all Miamians and our visitors by draining standing water, using mosquito repellent and covering up when going outdoors, especially during early morning and evening hours."

Wednesday morning, crews went street by street in the city checking neighborhoods for standing water, mosquito larvae and spraying where needed. They also sucked water from storm drains where needed.

On Tuesday, it was announced that a 15th case of non-travel related Zika virus was found in Miami-Dade along with three new travel related cases. Gimenez said after meeting with representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention they came up with a plan to spray for mosquitoes over a 10-mile area encompassing Wynwood. All of the non-travel related cases are believed to have come from this area.

Late Wednesday evening, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen shared a letter signed by every Florida member of the U.S. House urging the CDC to reconsider their funding plan.

The letter read, in part:

"As you know, today the CDC announced that the State of Florida will receive $720,000 in new funding for detecting and monitoring microcephaly and other adverse birth outcomes as a result of Zika virus infection out of a total of $16 million that is being divided between 40 states and territories. This amounts to a paltry 4.5% of funding made available, despite the fact that almost half of all confirmed non-travel cases of the disease in the continental United States have now been linked to mosquito transmission in Florida."

Sen. Marco Rubio is urging congress to approve a stalled $1.9 billion request to fight Zika.

"I continue, quite frankly, to be deeply disappointed that even something like a public health emergency can become so highly  politicized in the environment we live in," he said.

Half of the $222 million budgeted to combat the mosquito borne virus is already gone. The U.S. Department Of Health says funds will be zero by the end of September without congressional action.

Zika 101: Prevent Spread By Protecting Yourself

Health officials say so far no mosquito tested for Zika in the state has tested positive.

Still, the CDC has issued a rare travel warning advising pregnant women to avoid the Wynwood area because mosquito counts are still high in the area. Couples who have been there recently are advised to put off having children for at least two months and expectant mothers should get tested for the virus if they have visited the neighborhood since mid-June.

The travel warning covers an area of about one square mile in Wynwood to the east of Interstate 95 and south of I-195. It's large enough, health officials said, to provide a buffer around the suspected hot zone. The tropical mosquito that spreads Zika travels less than 200 yards in its lifetime.

On Monday, the United Kingdom and New York issued a travel advisory warning travelers – especially pregnant women – to avoid the affected area of South Florida.

It was pretty easy to score some mosquito repellent in Wynwood if you left yours at home.

"Good morning, good morning. You guys are aware of that Wynwood is an area identified as having the Zika virus?" a police officer asked a crowd.

Wednesday morning Miami police officers handed out flyers in the Wynwood area about Zika and to avoid contracting it.

Everywhere you turned, Zika prevention methods were in place.

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado also took to the streets to speak with concerned residents and tourists alike.

"Come to Wynwood, we are safe! Come to Miami," Regalado said.

It was Regalado's first public appearance in Wynwood since local cases were found here. He's concerned the warning for pregnant women to stay away is being misunderstood. He said he spoke to the governor.

"He is also concerned like I am that Wynwood has been singled out in the world as a place that it's ground zero. This is not the case.  This is just a cluster," he said.

"Wouldn't that be something to take up with the governor's office, the health department, CDC? They're the ones saying Wynwood," CBS4's Ted Scouten said to him.

"Actually, the governor said that they believe, he believes, the CDC made kind of a mistake saying this is a warning advisory, or something like that," the mayor explained.

Wynwood businesses are concerned all the publicity could keep visitors away. But so far, many say it's OK.

The folks at Concrete Beach Brewery told Scouten it's business as usual for them.

"People are still out and about having a good time. Wynwood is still a fun neighborhood to go do things in. We still have our customers coming in enjoying things," said Jessie Morris of Concrete Beach Brewery.

Still people visiting the area took their own precautions.

"We both like protection for mosquitoes, the most powerful we found," said Claudio Grandi who is visiting from Italy. "That's it. We don't know what else we can do."

"We've been vaccinated. We had to get vaccinated before we went to Costa Rica," said Ashley Henry. "And we used insect repellent."

Some people, however, are taking the situation in stride.

"It's a concern for people who have health problems, pregnant women, young people, old people," said Jamie Wittenberg. "But I also think it's another thing that gets us excited about kinda nothing."

Zak Stern owns a highly popular bakery in the heart of Wynwood.

He's got lots of employees and a wife that is pregnant.

"I really need to measure my worry. I am in no rush to start freaking out yet," he said.

He, like many in this small section of Miami, wonder where this Zika thing is going.

"If I had a little more information I might be able to measure my response. Make my response easier," he said.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries Zika, is referred to as a domestic mosquito. They prefer to breed in small water containers typically found where people live and congregate. The mosquitoes fly, in some cases, less than one city block from the breeding location.

Experts say the Aedes Aegupti mosquito can not be effectively controlled by aerial spraying, rather ground level application of insecticide is best to kill adult mosquitoes.

Zika infections in pregnant women can cause severe brain-related birth defects, including microcephaly which is a serious birth defect of the brain. The global outbreak has led to more than 1,800 serious defects.

Click here for more information on the Zika virus or here for more Zika-related stories.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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