USA HEALTH MIAMI BEACH ZIKA.jpg
Municipal City of Miami workers clean the streets in Miami Beach, Florida, USA, 19 August 2016, as a method to control the spread of mosquitoes. Local authorities are taking steps to prevent an outbreak of Zika in the city while they are waiting to confirm Miami Beach as the new zone of the virus transmission.
Photograph: EPA/CRISTOBAL HERRERA

US officials are warning pregnant women not to travel to Miami Beach, Florida, amid reports of Zika transmission in the area.

The travel warning issued Friday for the popular tourist destination comes after health authorities identified people who had been infected with the virus by mosquitoes in the Miami Beach area. The area of concern in Florida previously had been a single Miami neighbourhood that had been the first to see active mosquito-borne transmission in the continental United States.

Five people have been confirmed to have been infected in the area, Florida Governor Rick Scott said.

The virus, spread primarily via mosquitoes, has seriously affected Latin America in recent months. The virus generally causes mild symptoms in adults, but can cause severe birth defects in the children of pregnant women who become infected with the virus.

While authorities stressed that the area affected in Florida was very small, it encompasses areas that draw many outside visitors, including South Beach and the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said pregnant women should consider delaying all non-essential travel to the entire Miami-Dade County region and called for pregnant women and their partners to be tested for the virus.

He also urged people to take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, including wearing insect repellant and long clothing, though he acknowledged his would difficult in a beach area known for sunbathers in skimpy bathing suits.

Efforts to contain the virus could also be complicated by the many high-rise buildings in Miami Beach that will prevent aerial spraying for mosquitoes from low-flying aircraft, Frieden said.

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