At 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 29, Miami started another day on the front lines of America’s fight against the Zika virus. Dozens of pickup trucks pulled out of Miami-Dade County’s mosquito-control department, west of the airport, carrying fumigation equipment that blankets city streets in clouds of bug-killing fog. The trucks headed to the area’s two Zika hot zones: Wynwood, Miami’s hip arts district, where the U.S.’s first locally transmitted case of the virus was discovered in July, and a 20-block stretch of Miami Beach.
Among the fleet of trucks, all of which were driven by local contractors and county workers, was a small Jeep. At the wheel was Linda Kothera, an expert in mosquito insecticide resistance. Riding shotgun was Joanie Kenney, a virologist. Both work for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Together, they make up half the agency’s four-person Zika emergency response team on the ground in Miami. It’s a bare-bones crew given the threat the virus poses not only to the city but also to the rest of the U.S. if it’s allowed to spread. Zika can damage or eat away the brain of an unborn baby if the mother is infected during pregnancy. In the U.S., 16 babies had been born with Zika-related birth defects as of Aug. 18. “This is the first time America has had to deal with something like this threat,” says Kenney, who’s done tours fighting Zika in Puerto Rico.