Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Health

Pinellas County has its first Zika case; brings Florida total to 107

The first case of Zika has been recorded in Pinellas County, the state Department of Health said Monday. The person who contracted the virus had recently traveled to the Dominican Republic.

The Pinellas case — along with a case that was reported Monday in Orange County — brings the total number in Florida to 107. All have been related to travel abroad.

The Zika virus can be troubling for women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant. Federal health officials recently concluded it can cause babies to be born with birth defects, including an abnormally small head and underdeveloped brain.

Most other people, however, won't show any symptoms.

To date, Zika has been most prevalent in Latin America and the Caribbean, where it is spread locally by mosquitoes. But experts warn mosquitoes could soon transmit the virus in the United States, and Florida in particular.

Public officials in the Tampa Bay area say they are paying close attention to the mosquito population. They are also taking steps to kill those insects that could carry Zika.

The 107 cases reported in Florida account for nearly 25 percent of all cases nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All of the cases were travel associated; 10 were transmitted sexually by someone who had recently been abroad.

Later this week, Gov. Rick Scott will travel to Washington to meet with federal lawmakers on the subject. He will urge them to execute "a robust plan to prevent and combat the spread of Zika in America."

There is reason to take immediate action, he said in a statement.

"We are now headed into summer, when heat and rainfall cause our mosquito population to grow," he said. "Simultaneously, the Olympic games in Brazil will heavily increase travel to a country where the Zika virus is spreading rapidly."

Times staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report. Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.

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