Outbreaks of disease

In 2008, the housing market crash severely impacted The United States, resulting in the foreclosure of over 380,000 homes, just in the state of Florida alone (Shah). There are many social and economic factors in the recent outbreak of the disease in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, Florida. These factors have a greater bearing to the cause and spread of the outbreak, rather than solely the disease, itself. Many of the social factors included revolve around the large Latin American population that resides in south Florida. Economically, the Housing Crash of 2008 plays a huge role in the spread of the disease, as well as the cyclical nature that poverty has on today’s society. Lastly, the preferential option for the poor and the lack of compliance are the ways that the disease impacts the people, but also the way that the disease can be fought and eradicated from society.

1.1 Social Factors

Throughout Latin America, a majority of the population lives in a society in which “staples of today” such as air conditioning, screened windows, screened porches, bug spray, and medicines to treat certain diseases, such as Zika, do not exist. In just the Miami-Dade metropolitan area alone, there are almost 450,000 Latin-American immigrants who have decided to live there, just under eight percent of the total population of the area (Zong). Specifically, in the Wynwood neighborhood, over sixty percent of the population was born outside of the United States, mostly from Latin America (Zong).

With more than 38.8 percent of major cities throughout Latin America, such as Quito, Lima, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, and Rio living in shanties and working in labor-intensive, outdoor environments, the immigrant population has resulted into living and working in almost identical conditions, in the Wynwood Neighborhood (Klak). Since the people living in these areas were not born or raised in an environment that is conducive to fighting against the spread of non-chronic diseases and infections, many of them do not understand how to effectively fight and prevent these diseases from spreading throughout the population.

1.2 Economic Factors

Jon Jay, in his investigation into the Zika transmission throughout Wynwood, came to the conclusion that the outbreak has been caused by the uprising number of vacant homes throughout the city, matched with the rising numbers of poverty in the area (Desmond). Most of the neighborhood is below the poverty line with anywhere from 32.5 to 50.7 percent of people taking advantage of the food stamps program (Food). On top of this, over fifty percent of the adults in the neighborhood have little to no high school education, with just over twenty-five percent actually receiving a collegiate degree (Wynwood). The mean income of Wynwood, Florida is just over $11,000 where the mean income for the United States as a whole is just over $51,000 (QuickFacts). According to Jay, over forty percent of the neighborhood suffers from “extreme poverty”, with the area of Wynwood being in the ninetieth percentile on poverty and vacancy in the United States (“Latest Miami Zika”).

The statistics on at-home swimming pools in the Wynwood area is startling. There are 392,000 pools in the state of Florida. With just over 6.2 million houses in the entire state, just over six percent of all homes have an outdoor pool (QuickFacts). With just over six thousand houses in Wynwood, this means there is just under 400 backyard pools in the small neighborhood. Wynwood has a vacancy are of 7% (“How U.S. Cities Can Target Zika Risk”). When this is factored in, the resulting number is around 27 pools in the area are left vacant. With the frequent hurricanes and heavy rains in the area, the pools are filled with still, stagnant water. Being a prime breeding ground for Zika infected mosquitoes, these numbers mean that there are about 27 large breeding grounds for Zika-infected mosquitoes in a neighborhood that spans just under 1.6 square miles.

With the numbers above being just estimates, it is also needed to be understood the other ways that Zika can be transmitted. On top of the vacant pools, the extreme poverty results in a large number of discarded pieces to equipment, such as discarded tires, paint cans, water bottles, etc. The items are not properly disposed of, which can collect water, thus resulting in an increased breeding rate of the Zika-infected mosquitoes (Shah). Transmission is not limited to single mosquito bites; the disease can be transmitted both by sexual activity and through birth.

2. The Solution

The residents of Wynwood, Florida most definitely deserve and have a right to health and deserve a preferential option. Diseases, such as the Zika virus, are a nuisance to address and impact the everyday quality of people’s lives. The Zika virus has been believed to contribute to microcephaly, or an abnormally small head at birth. This leads to delayed development, various learning disabilities, and many behavioral impairments, such as irritability, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. If left untreated, then the people who have kids with these illnesses are put to even greater financial burden, in an area where over forty percent of the population is already under the poverty line. In order to determine the ways that the Florida Department of Health should respond, the three-main means of the problem to be heightened, a preferential option for the poor and the lack of compliance, must be stopped.

2.1 A Preferential Option for the Poor

The concept of a preferential option for the poor was invented by Gustavo Gutiérrez when he started talking about God having a preferential option for the poor because they are the people who have suffered all their life (Farmer). However, the Zika virus has a preferential option for the poor as well. Poor people are also put at a greater risk for premature death, as well as a decreased availability to healthcare due to a lack of financial stability. Also, poor people are put at a greater risk of contracting the virus due to their inability to purchase sufficient air conditioning units and window screens, as well as being less likely to purchase products, such as bug spray, that attempt to repel the mosquitoes.

An effective means to eradicate this would be to simply end poverty. However impossible, there are many ways to work towards reducing poverty, that could diminish the Zika virus altogether. For example, the Florida Department of Health can initiate property tax breaks for people who have installed screens on their windows at their home. The tax breaks would give an incentive to people to install these, as well as bettering the overall health of the population. Another way to reduce poverty could be for the FDH to host food drives and donate food to the people around the community who are below the poverty line. This, adjoined with food stamps, would work towards supplying increased food and nutrition to these families so they could in turn, spend their money to purchase window screens and bug spray, or save towards air conditioning units. Also, free clinics can be set up and placed in various locations around the city to help test and treat people who are shown to have symptoms of the Zika virus.

Also, the FDH can host “city clean-ups” and work towards cleaning up the area, throwing away these discarded tires, paint cans, etc. and then further move on to destroying the foreclosed houses with the filled-up, “breeding ground” pools. The gentrification of these ruined houses would work towards the eradication of the spread of Zika through the actual mosquito itself.

2.2 Lack of Compliance

The issue of compliance is extremely pertinent in the eradication of Zika. The poor population does not have access to high caliber healthcare readily available, probably does not go to the dentist at suggested intervals, and probably does not understand the means to get tested or receive a vaccine or treatment for an illness. Because of this, the issue of compliance arises. No matter what efforts the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade tries to enact to diminish the spread of Zika, the people, themselves, have to have a desire and ability to take part in these measures as well.

One huge way that the FDH can deal with the issue of compliance, is advertising. The FDH could put up posters on building walls around the city, emphasizing the need to get tested for Zika, to wear long clothes, to put on bug spray, and to purchase and install air conditioning and window screens. These posters would be strategically placed near common areas, such as parks and grocery stores, as well as on neighborhood bus stops and major roadways that bridge between commercial and residential areas in the community. The clinics would also be placed in public park and grocery store parking lots, to enforce the availability of these free clinics. On top of this, the tax cuts for installing A/C units and window screens would push the issue of compliance by providing a monetary incentive to eradicating the disease. In addition, the FDH can provide electric bill certificates that can be redeemed to discount the added monetary burden that an A/C unit would have on the population.

3. Conclusion

To conclude, the Zika issue in Wynwood, Miami, Florida is extremely pertinent to the Florida Department of Health. The virus has prolonged impacts on the local community that cannot take many efforts to help themselves, without governmental intervention. Jonathan Jay was correct in his assumption that poverty and vacancy is the main cause of the disease, and the FDH needs to put in place some efforts to end the disease, altogether. The main reasons that the disease is continuing to spread is due to the disease’s preferential option for the poor and the lack of accompaniment in the society. Effective ways to counteract these issues would be to use “clean up the city” efforts, free health clinics, food drives, and public awareness campaigns about the disease.

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