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Zika Virus Hits Close to Home

After recent studies confirming that the first mosquito in the U.S. carrying Zika was officially discovered just four blocks from Hebrew Academy, the school is taking steps to ensure the safety of its students and staff.

Head of School, Rabbi Zvi Kahn, said the school is advising students to wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants as well as leggings for girls. In addition, they are spraying around the school on Sundays, and sending consistent emails to raise awareness.

Despite the precautions, high school students remain unafraid.

“It’s just the flu,” said Jack Benveniste-Plitt (10th grade). “I don’t think any of us are having babies any time soon, so we don’t need to worry.”

According to Mike Lopez, MD, poison specialist at Jackson and Florida Health department spokesperson, officials are communicating with local communities, educating the public and spraying the areas. Currently, 620 travelers have brought the virus to Miami Beach and 47 Miami residents, including 75 who are pregnant, have tested positive for the Zika virus.

While staff members and parents are taking their own measures to protect themselves, the biggest concern lies with pregnant teachers and mothers of the school. Fifth grade teacher Abigail Nagler left the area due to concerns about Zika and it is undetermined when she will return.

“I wouldn’t say I am afraid, but I am definitely more aware of my surroundings and the places I go,” said 4th grade teacher Mrs. Salver, who is in her eighth month of pregnancy. “I am fortunate to have a co-teacher who gladly takes our students to and from PE, recess or any outdoor activity. In addition, the school’s maintenance team has provided me with bug repellent, mosquito catchers, and clip on mosquito repellent to use at any time.”

The high school’s safety measures include new precautions regarding the patio.

“We’re encouraging all students to stay inside during lunch,” said Assistant Principal Rabbi Aharon Assaraf. “But we nonetheless feel very safe because the school is taking all measures possible.”

Assaraf, whose wife is in her second trimester of pregnancy, is cautious but hopeful.

“Initially it was frightening. We were away for the summer in upstate New York and pushed it to the back of our minds,” said Assaraf, who is also a Miami Beach resident. “But as soon as we got to Miami, we started seeing more and more headlines regarding Zika. We just have to kind of put our head down and say we’re going to be careful and stay indoors as much as we can, but ultimately, our faith is in G-d.”

By: Gabriel Apoj (12th grade), Jack Esformes (11th), Shmuel Kahn (12th), Avrohom Neuwirth (10th), Avi Stein (12th), Daniel Yerushalmi (12th)

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