In this Jan. 27, 2016, file photo, an Aedes aegypti mosquito is photographed through a microscope at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. (Felipe Dana/AP)
WASHINGTON – Giants players are asking questions and club officials are taking precautions in preparation for their arrival Sunday night in Miami – the first time a major league team will travel to South Florida since the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued an unprecedented domestic travel warning for Miami in response to the spread of the Zika virus.
“It’s a concern,” said Giants catcher Buster Posey, who sought information from team doctor Ken Akizuki. “I haven’t talked to too many of the guys, but I wanted to get Dr. Akizuki’s take. It’s a legitimate concern, especially for the guys who have wives who are pregnant or plan to be in the future.”
Giants team travel director Bret Alexander contacted the Giants’ team hotel, and was informed that officials there are spraying the grounds and using Shop-Vacs every morning to eliminate pooled water where mosquitoes can breed.
Alexander also has arranged for cans of mosquito repellent in every player’s room upon their arrival in Miami.
“And if anyone feels they want mosquito netting, we’ll make that happen, too,” Alexander said. “You can’t be overly cautious about these things.”
The Players Association tends to err on the side of caution. In May, the union successfully lobbied MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to relocate a two-game series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Miami because of Zika concerns.
The league said in a news release that “players who objected to the trip because of their specific family situations should not be forced to travel to Puerto Rico. Because too many regulars on both clubs fell into that category, Commissioner Manfred had no choice but to relocate the games.”
There were more than 700 Zika cases spread by mosquitoes in Puerto Rico at the time. And of course, Brazil is inundated by the virus as thousands of athletes and fans arrived in Rio De Janeiro for the Summer Olympics.
The CDC issued the travel warning for Miami on Aug. 1, four days after it reported that four cases of Zika infection were likely to have been the first domestic instances of local transmission by mosquito bites. The toll was up to 14 cases by the time the travel warning was issued.
The virus causes mild flu-like symptoms or none at all, but infection during pregnancy has been linked to microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is undersized and can result in developmental brain damage.
The travel warning is focused on the Wynwood section of Miami, just north of downtown. Officials there began spraying the area on Thursday; because the mosquito that carries the virus, aedes aegypti, has a lifetime flight range of only a few hundred meters, the CDC has not yet expanded the warning to areas like Key Biscayne or Little Havana, where Marlins Park is located.
Giants bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu already bought anti-mosquito wristbands that he plans to wear in Miami. Giants second baseman Joe Panik, who is getting married after the season, said he wouldn’t venture out on the town.
“I don’t know too much about it, so I’ll probably stay in my hotel till the bus goes to the stadium,” Panik said. “The safest thing to do is just stay indoors until you head to the park, I guess – which is also indoors.”
That’s true. Marlins Park has a retractable roof that remains closed in the August heat.
“It’s so hot in Miami,” said Giants left-hander Javier Lopez, “I don’t think you’ll see people doing much outdoors anyway.”
Brandon Belt is back in the No.3 hole, both because Angel Pagan is getting a day off and because Manager Bruce Bochy wants to split up his left-handed batters. The Nationals have two matchup lefties in their bullpen: Oliver Perez and Sammy Solis.
Bochy had planned to give Hunter Pence a day off earlier in the trip; he’ll get a break in Sunday’s series finale here at Nationals Park.
The Giants are facing Stephen Strasburg, who is 15-1 with a 2.63 ERA. Their chances might seem dim. But hey, they were able to beat Strasburg here in Game 1 of the 2014 NL Division Series, thanks in no small part to Jake Peavy.