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Five Pandemics Miami Has Survived

Fear of coronavirus has created a worldwide shortage of facemasks.EXPAND
Fear of coronavirus has created a worldwide shortage of facemasks.

The past week was packed with coronavirus news. The Chinese doctor who blew the whistle about a potential outbreak and contracted the virus from a patient died in a hospital in Wuhan. Public fear has created a worldwide shortage of facemasks, gloves, and other protective equipment. Thousands of people are being quarantined on two cruise ships docked in Japan and Hong Kong.

And we here at New Times brought you this excellent piece of public service journalism about a Miami adult webcam company offering stranded passengers free access to online sessions with porn stars.

No coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Florida, but there have been a number of scares. A patient at a Hollywood hospital was tested for a possible case of the virus last week, but public health officials have confirmed nothing. Thirty students and three teachers from the Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens were required to stay home as a precaution after returning from a Model United Nations trip during which a Chinese student fell ill. They were recently given permission to return to school.

Miami is in the clear for now, and it's likelier you'll catch the plain old flu than coronavirus. But concerns about a potential outbreak here are valid. After all, South Florida has experienced scary maladies. Here's a list of five pandemics Miami has survived thus far.

A 9-year-old boy was the first to die from swine flu in Miami-Dade in 2009. The swine flu pandemic spread around the world in the spring of 2009. The virus, also known as H1N1, spread from infected pigs to humans. The first case was detected in a 10-year-old patient in California. In total, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated there were 60.8 million cases, 274,304 hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths in the United States. By summer, more than 140 cases of the flu were reported in Miami-Dade County.

A boy visiting from West Africa was tested for Ebola after a scare at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach in 2014. The results came back negative. Another patient was screened for the virus at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Those results were also negative.

West Africa saw the most widespread Ebola outbreak in history in 2013. The epidemic killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa and infected some 28,000.

Eleven people were treated for Ebola stateside during the 2014-to-2016 epidemic, according to the CDC. The first travel-related case was confirmed in September 2014 in a man who flew to Dallas from West Africa; he died about a week after arriving in the States. Two healthcare workers who treated him in Dallas tested positive for the virus, but they recovered.

Florida mosquitoes spread chikungunya in 2014. In June that year, dozens of Floridians contracted chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease marked by acute fever, rash, and severe joint pain.

The illness spread throughout the Caribbean; hundreds of thousands of people, particularly in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, came down with the disease. Floridians became exposed to the illness abroad. A Miami-Dade woman and a Palm Beach man were the first two confirmed cases of chikungunya in Florida.

Wynwood became ground zero for the Zika virus in Florida in 2016. The virus choked Wynwood's economy. An Florida International University study says 91 percent of businesses lost revenue after the outbreak and 84 percent received fewer customers. Cases were also confirmed in Miami Beach.

Named for the Zika Forest in Uganda, the virus was discovered in 1947; the first human cases were detected in 1952. The virus spreads by infected mosquitoes and poses the greatest threat to pregnant women. Most people infected with Zika experience cold-like symptoms and then recover.

The first non-travel-related Zika case in the United States was reported in Miami-Dade. A 23-year-old pregnant woman with a fever, widespread rash, and sore throat visited her doctor in July 2016. By December, there had been 256 locally acquired cases, 1,100 travel-related cases, and 208 pregnant women with "laboratory evidence" of Zika.

Cases of dengue were confirmed in Florida in 2010 and 2019. In 2010, Miami-Dade health officials confirmed a case of locally acquired dengue for the first time in about 60 years. The virus is mosquito-borne and can cause high fever, rash, muscle and joint pain, and — in severe cases — serious bleeding and shock. The illness arrived in Miami by way of an outbreak in the Florida Keys.

The Miami Herald reported on 14 locally transmitted cases of dengue in 2019. A record 3 million cases of dengue in Latin America have been reported, and health officials worry the number of cases in Miami will continue to rise.

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