Mayor: Tampa to take aggressive action to prevent spread of Zika

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn brought an army of code enforcement officers, health officials and city workers with him to the backyard of an abandoned Tampa home Monday to talk about the Zika virus.

Weeds in the backyard are overgrown. The home is empty and falling apart, and a green slime fills the bottom two feet of a swimming pool. Neighbors of the home in the 2300 block of Elcoe Drive  say they’ve complained for years about the dilapidated home. They complain about vagrants occupying the home, along with rats and other issues.

Neighbor Bill Fisher says everyone around the home has been complaining about it to the city – for years. “We can not even sit on our porches, the mosquitoes are that bad,” Fisher said.

Mayor Buckhorn chose the backyard to address growing concerns about the spread of the Zika virus in Florida. “In light of what’s been going on around the State of Florida, we decided not to wait for the politicians in Washington, D.C. to act. We’re going to take action ourselves,” he said.

RELATED: What to know about the Zika Virus

Buckhorn says his code enforcement team is going to be aggressive about going out and identifying properties where there is standing water. The code enforcement officers are limited by current law because they are not allowed to go on private property.

In the case of foreclosed properties, it can often be difficult to find who the owner of the property is and then to force that person to clean up the property. In some cases, code enforcement actions can take years and become costly.

“We have got to find a way to deal with situations like this, situations like that pool, and get in there and take care of these problems. It’s not fair to the neighbors and it’s not fair to the rest of the folks that live around these eyesores. This should have been demolished probably three years ago,” Buckhorn said.

Buckhorn knows it creates problems for neighborhoods when a home falls into disrepair.

“There are a lot of opportunities in places where water can collect. It doesn’t take much for these mosquitoes to breed and so we are going to be aggressive about going out and identifying those areas and situations where we can effect some change,” he said.

The mayor urged people to go onto their own property and look for areas of standing water. Dump the water before mosquitoes breed, he said.

Florida has become a hot spot for the Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitoes. More than 35 cases have been reported in South Florida. Over the weekend, several non-travel related Zika cases were reported in Miami Beach. Some cases were also reported in South Beach.

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