Florida mayors say state told them to keep Zika mosquito sites secret

Brian Zimmerman - Print  | 

Both the mayor of Miami-Dade County and the mayor of Miami Beach have accused the Florida Department of Health of instructing Miami officials to keep the locations of Zika-positive mosquito traps in Miami Beach confidential, according to the Miami Herald.

On Friday, during a court hearing for the Miami Herald's lawsuit against Miami-Dade, a county attorney said the state health department ordered county officials not to disclose the sites of traps in Miami Beach where mosquitoes with Zika have been captured. According to the Herald, the lawsuit seeks to disclose information regarding the mosquito traps on the grounds that public knowledge of the locations would inform precautionary measures taken by residents and add context to the community debate over whether to use the controversial insecticide naled in the fight against Zika carrying mosquitoes.

According to the Herald, the state health department denied the claim on Friday.

"The statements made by the county today are completely false," Mara Gambineri, a health department spokeswoman, told the Herald in an email. "At no time did the Florida Department of Health instruct Miami-Dade County to withhold the location of mosquito traps. This is solely the decision of the county."

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On Sunday, responding to the state department's denial of culpability, Carlos A. Gimenez, mayor of Miami-Dade County, said, "During multiple meetings, phone calls and conversations, officials from the Florida Department of Health explicitly stated to County officials that information identifying the addresses of traps containing mosquitoes positive for the Zika virus is confidential during active, ongoing epidemiological investigations. To protect the privacy of the residents living in areas where Zika-positive mosquito traps were found, the Florida Department of Health, on several occasions, instructed Miami-Dade County to maintain the confidentiality of the trap locations."

According to the Herald, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine corroborated Mayor Gimenez's statement. Mr. Levine said, "Mayor Gimenez is only doing what the state told him, his staff, me and my entire staff, specifically, that they would not permit the county to release the information on the locations."

In response to the Mayor's statements, Jennifer Meale, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Agriculture, told the Herald via email, "In consultation with the Department of Health, we believe the locations of the traps are exempt per 381.0031(6), F.S. [a state statute governing information gathering during epidemiological investigations]."

As of Sept. 23, there have been 95 cases of Zika in the state not associated with travel out of a total 874 documented cases, 90 of which have occurred in pregnant women, according to the Florida Department of Health. The Herald has previously speculated as to the accuracy of these numbers, suggesting the department has underreported the true impact of Zika on the state.

More articles on the Zika virus: 
Florida Zika update: Local cases near 100, Fla. Gov. allocates $25M, still no funding from Congress 
Scientists able to detect traces of Zika from eye swabs 
New science proves Zika causes microcephaly

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