The Zika virus is in Pinellas County in the form of one person who has a non-travel related case, said Florida Governor Rick Scott on August 23. The Florida Department of Health is investigating.
“This is one case and they do not anticipate it being expansive,” said Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly after participating in a 4:15 p.m. conference call on August 23 with the governor and Florida Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip.
Previous Zika cases in Tampa Bay have been tied to people traveling to tropical or sub-tropical areas outside the United States. State officials have confirmed 14 cases of Zika in Hillsborough, nine in Pinellas, six in Pasco and four in Hernando counties, according to an August 23 Tampa Bay Times story.
The governor’s office says state health officials believe “ongoing active transmissions are only occurring within the small areas in Wynwood and Miami Beach in Miami-Dade County.”
Active transmissions occur when “local mosquitos are spreading the virus as opposed to travel-related cases [where people are] getting infected somewhere else, then bringing it back,” said Dr. Ulyee Choe, D.O., director of the Florida Department of Public Health in Pinellas County while speaking to the Pinellas County commissioners during their meeting on August 23. “Pertaining to our case, it’s not considered to have the active transmission with just a single case. It would need to be two or more cases.”
According to the Florida Department of Health website, Zika can also be spread through sex. Zika has been linked to birth defects like microcephaly.
The Pinellas County investigation of the one local non-travel case involves the Pinellas Department of Health retracing the patent’s steps, talking to co-workers and testing family members, said Choe. The individual is not believed to have traveled overseas to a country where Zika is common or to Wynwood or Miami Beach where people have contracted the disease from local mosquitoes, Philip told the Tampa Bay Times in an August 23 story.
The type of mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus have a flight range of from 50 to 100 feet, said Choe.
Also on August 23, four new non-travel related cases were announced in the Wynwood area, according to the governor’s office.
Officials have not released the identity of the infected person in Pinellas County or their location.
More details about the case in Pinellas County will be announced when the investigation concludes, the governor’s office said. Until that time, “it is not clear whether mosquitoes are spreading Zika in part of Pinellas County or if this is a single case,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“Only one in five people that are infected with Zika show symptoms,” said Choe. “That presents a challenge.” Symptoms are: fevers, rash, conjunctivitis or redness in the eyes, and joint pain, he said.
According to the governor’s office, local health officials are doing “door-to-door outreach and sampling in Pinellas County and mosquito abatement and reduction activities are also taking place.”
The governor’s office recommends, “any pregnant woman who would like to receive a free Zika test or a Zika prevention kit should contact the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County at one of the following three health department locations:
• 205 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg
• 310 N. Myrtle Ave., Clearwater
• 8751 Ulmerton Rd., Largo
How To Take Personal Precautions
During the conference call, “they talked about preventative measures like eliminating standing water” because this is where mosquitoes breed, said O’Reilly. According to health officials, mosquitoes can breed in as little as one-quarter inch of standing water.
The county website recommends water should be drained from areas like old tires, flower pots, garbage can lids, vehicle and boat tarps, buckets, recycling containers, rain gutters and air conditioner drip pans. Birdbaths and wading pools should be flushed at least weekly. Bromeliads should be flushed twice weekly or treated with a biological larvicide.
For stagnant pools of water that cannot be drained that are not being used as drinking water sources, larvacide dunk can be used, said Choe.
O’Reilly also said Gulfport residents should be mindful to dress wisely and use a good mosquito repellent.
Choe said, “I know it’s difficult [in] Florida, [but] if you want to be proactive, wear long sleeves, long pants as well as covering yourself with mosquito repellants.”
The Department of Florida Health says to use repellent that contains up to 30 percent DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. The site cautions to follow age-appropriate usage instructions, warnings for pregnant or nursing women and to apply the repellent on bare skin or clothing but not under clothing.
Zika kits also typically contain permethrin repellent, which can be used on clothing and fine netting used to protect sleeping areas but not directly on skin.
Health officials also recommend the use of condoms to prevent sexual transmission of the Zika virus, even for women who are already pregnant.
State Zika Hotline and Local Mosquito Help
The Florida Department of Health Zika Virus Information Hotline is: 1-855-622-6735. For more information about the Zika virus and related investigations around the state, visit FloridaHealth.gov.
County officials in Pinellas County handle all mosquito control, said O’Reilly. To contact the county’s Mosquito Control, call 727-464-7503. According to the county, so far, Mosquito Control has received over 2,500 service requests in 2016 – over 500 since the beginning of August – with an average response time of 24 hours or less. For more information, visit Pinellas County MosquitoControl.