- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Health officials are urging Arizona’s most populous county to give them more power to act quickly to eradicate mosquitoes on private property.

Maricopa County health officials said Monday they want faster access to private land to prevent the spread of the Zika virus, reported The Arizona Republic (http://bit.ly/2aN0l75). Federal and Florida state health officials recently reported that 14 people in the Miami area have been infected by mosquitoes that carry the virus.

Zika is a disease that’s usually mild but can lead to severe brain-related birth defects if women are infected during pregnancy. The disease has swept through Latin America and the Caribbean in recent months. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday warned pregnant women to avoid the Miami neighborhood where mosquitoes carry Zika.

Maricopa County Public Health Director Dr. Bob England warned the county Board of Supervisors that health and environmental officials need more authority to help prevent a similar public health crisis here.

“You don’t want a cumbersome legal process to be the cause of us getting the next headline and having people stop coming here,” said England. He said it could take a week or longer to get a warrant allowing for mosquito abatement at vacant or investor-owned properties.

Health officials say that time period could determine whether the Zika virus can reach the local mosquito population.

The board didn’t take any formal action Monday, but supervisors say they want to work on a process that balances public health needs with the rights of property owners. Board Chairman Clint Hickman says he’d like to see the issue resolved as soon as possible.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said through a spokesman that his office will look at ways to update the existing procedures.

Arizona has seen 10 confirmed Zika cases among people who visited countries where the virus is circulating. Officials have been working to make sure those people don’t come into contact with Aedes aegypti, the type of mosquito that carries the virus.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com

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