(MIAMI) -- Officers with the Miami Police Department distributed bottles of bug spray to homeless residents of the Wynwood, Miami area of Florida Tuesday in an effort to help people living in the epicenter of the outbreak who are especially vulnerable to the mosquito-borne virus.
"Since they're homeless they reside 24/7 out in the elements, so they're exposed to mosquitoes 24/7," James Barnet of the Miami Police Department told ABC News Tuesday, emphasizing the importance of helping the homeless in the community to prevent Zika.
"Many of the homeless are transient," Barnet added, highlighting the potential risks of spreading the virus.
The Wynwood district of Miami is ground zero of the first locally transmitted Zika outbreak in the United States, with at least 14 infections. It also houses the Miami Rescue Shelter and a considerable homeless population. Yesterday, the CDC warned pregnant woman and their partners not to travel through the area.
Barnet told ABC News that they distributed 50 cans of bug repellent this morning, giving one to every homeless resident they came across in Wynwood and leaving extras at the shelter.
"Many were very grateful and surprised that we would just come up and offer the cans. Many of the homeless knew about Zika but some didn't. So the homeless who didn't know what Zika was, we would tell them about it," Barnet said.
In order to combat the spread of the virus, he said, "We need to do more education."
Lorenzo Ward, a Wynwood man who happily accepted a bottle of bug spray from the police as they distributed them to homeless residents told ABC affiliate WPLG-TV in Miami that he previously used a painful home-made repellent. "I use bleach and alcohol at nighttime before I go to bed on my skin. It burns the skin, but it keeps the mosquitoes off."
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