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Miami Beach Residents Criticize Pesticide Spraying In Zika Control Efforts


From South America to the U.S., health officials are trying to figure out the best way to respond to the Zika virus. In a few minutes we'll hear about what's happening in Haiti but first to Miami Beach. Authorities are planning an aerial spray of insecticide to kill mosquitoes which can carry the virus. NPR's Greg Allen reports on the controversy that's caused.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: The pesticide is called Naled. In Miami-Dade County, it's been used for 40 years to control mosquitoes. Last month the CDC said aerial spraying of Naled was a key factor in controlling the mosquito population in Wynwood, another Miami neighborhood where Zika was being spread locally.

But this week when federal, state and county officials said they wanted to spray the pesticide over a 1-and-a-half-square-mile area in the city of Miami Beach, they were met with a large public outcry.


EVO LOVE: I don't feel like we're talking enough about Naled and the effects. I want to know the effects of this poison.

ALLEN: Evil Love was one of a couple hundred people who jammed into a Miami Beach workshop on plans to begin spraying Naled. Florida Governor Rick Scott has indicated that he's ready to order aerial spraying in Miami Beach whether local authorities concur or not. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he agrees with the governor, public health and mosquito control experts that aerial spraying of Naled is necessary.


CARLOS GIMENEZ: Because I would hate to be the person that allowed Zika to run rampant in Miami-Dade County and affect hundreds of pregnant women and their young fetuses - OK? - and their young babies.

ALLEN: Most of the residents at today's meeting were opposed to using Naled, and many were skeptical at the health threat posed by Zika. At one point, City Commissioner Ricky Arriola asked the audience for a show of hands.


RICKY ARRIOLA: Now raise your hand if you're skeptical about the link between the Zika virus and microcephaly.

ALLEN: Dozens of hands go up.


ARRIOLA: OK, leave your hands up. How many of you are doctors or experts in infectious diseases?


ALLEN: Boos followed. Some of the residents said they don't trust state and local officials or even the State Department of Health and the CDC. Christine Curry, an OB-GYN told Miami Beach residents she has 15 women with Zika in her practice who have delivered with one case of microcephaly and another baby with eye problems. Being leery about the use of a pesticide makes sense, she said, but urged skeptics to balance the risk and consider what's at stake.

CHRISTINE CURRY: And I want you to know that Zika's a thing. And while we don't fully understand it, the women who are positive have higher rates of birth defects and higher rates of stillbirth and higher rates of miscarriage and higher rates of ultrasound images that are ugly and scary.

ALLEN: As of now, Miami-Dade Mayor Gimenez says the first of four aerial Naled sprayings will take place early Friday morning. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.

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