Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bay area Zika investigation closed with no further cases found

Surrounded by Hillsborough county and Florida state officials, Governor Rick Scott spoke to the media following a round table on the Zika virus on Aug. 24 at the Hillsborough County Health Department in Tampa. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times] 

Surrounded by Hillsborough county and Florida state officials, Governor Rick Scott spoke to the media following a round table on the Zika virus on Aug. 24 at the Hillsborough County Health Department in Tampa. [MONICA HERNDON | Times] 

TAMPA — At least for now, Tampa Bay is considered officially Zika-free.

Florida Department of Health officials announced Tuesday that they have closed the active investigation into the region's first locally transmitted case of the virus that has been linked to birth defects.

The patient was a Tampa Fire Rescue firefighter who lived in Pinellas, triggering a scramble by health departments on both sides of the bay to contain a potential outbreak.

Since she had not traveled to areas where Zika is widespread, the infection was believed to be the result of a mosquito bite.

But testing of 70 people who had contact with the woman — including her immediate family and at least 25 co-workers — returned negative. That meant neither Pinellas nor Hillsborough met health department criteria to be classified as areas where active transmission is taking place, as occurred in Miami Beach and Miami's Wynwood neighborhood.

The investigation, which was announced as a Pinellas case by Gov. Rick Scott, took 35 days to conclude. Epidemiologists from both the Pinellas and Hillsborough health departments worked together and coordinated with county government mosquito spraying offices to spray and trap around the firefighter's home and workplace.

"Upon testing 70 close contacts and individuals from the community, we have found no additional positive cases," said department spokeswoman Mara Gambineri. "We will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to prevent the spread of Zika in Pinellas and other counties throughout Florida."

Trapped mosquitoes were tested at state Department of Agriculture labs. No mosquitoes caught in both Hillsborough or Pinellas tested positive for Zika, officials there said.

Still, the presence of the virus in the region triggered anxiety among some residents, with health clinics and some local gynecologists reporting an increase in testing requests from pregnant women and those planning to get pregnant.

The refusal of health officials to provide more specific details about where in Pinellas the infected woman lived was questioned by both U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Belleair Bluffs, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who said that added to people's apprehension.

While the Pinellas case is now closed, Florida continues to record new cases of Zika virtually every day with the total number of infections statewide now topping 900.

That includes four new locally transmitted cases of Zika in Miami-Dade County that were confirmed on Tuesday.

Health officials are conducting active investigations into locally transmitted cases in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties and mosquitoes are believed to be spreading Zika in Miami Beach.

Last week, Scott announced he will use his emergency powers to allocate an extra $25 million to speed up the development of a Zika vaccine and "innovative, cost-effective" methods to test for the virus. He also made a recent trip to Washington, D.C., to lobby for more federal funding to fight Zika.

But on Tuesday, Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked a bill that would have allocated $1.1 billion because the bill did not include money for Flint, Mich., to tackle its water contamination crisis.

Contact Christopher O'Donnell at or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

Bay area Zika investigation closed with no further cases found 09/27/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 27, 2016 7:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs' Doug Martin relying on strength from drug rehab to power his return


    TAMPA — He would not talk about the drug he abused. He would not identify the rehab facility he entered in January or how long he was there.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin participates in an "open OTA practice" at One Buc Place, the team's training facility, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
  2. NCAA: Former USF basketball assistant gave improper benefits


    TAMPA — Former USF men's basketball assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided impermissible benefits, including lodging at his home, for two prospective student-athletes while they received on-campus tutoring, according to findings reported to the school by the NCAA.

  3. Quiet college dropout turned bomber: Who was Salman Abedi?


    LONDON — He was quiet and withdrawn, a college dropout who liked soccer — and, some say, showed alarming signs of being radicalized years before he walked into a pop concert at Britain's Manchester Arena and detonated a powerful bomb, killing himself and 22 others.

    Salman Abedi was identified by British authorities as the man behind Monday’s attack.
  4. Soldiers launch attacks in besieged Philippine city


    MARAWI, Philippines — Backed by tanks and rocket-firing helicopters, Philippine troops launched "precision attacks" Thursday to clear extremists linked to the Islamic State group from a city that has been under siege since a raid that failed to capture one of Asia's most-wanted militants.

    Soldiers fire at enemy positions Thursday while trying to clear the city of Marawi, Philippines, of armed militants.
  5. Back to .500, Rays feel ready to roll (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Who wants to be mediocre? Middling? Average? Run-of-the-mill?

    Rays catcher Jesus Sucre tags out the Angels’ Mike Trout trying to score from second base after a perfect peg from rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. in the first inning.