Advertisement
  1. Health

Local leaders tackle mosquitoes, call for more information as state investigates Pinellas Zika case

Surrounded by Hillsborough County and Florida state officials, Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip spoke to the media Wednesday after a roundtable on the Zika virus at the Hillsborough County Health Department in Tampa. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Aug. 25, 2016

TAMPA — It may be up to two weeks before health officials know if a Pinellas resident who appears to have contracted Zika locally is an isolated case or the first sign that mosquitoes here are spreading the virus.

But the emergence of a potential mosquito-borne case has community leaders on both sides of Tampa Bay eager to reduce mosquito populations and has prompted renewed calls for health officials to reveal where the infection took place.

One day after Florida Department of Health officials announced the Pinellas case, Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip discussed the state's response at a roundtable with Hills­borough County leaders including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, County Commissioner Sandy Murman, school superintendent Jeff Eakins and state Reps. Dana Young and Janet Cruz.

No new locally transmitted cases were reported in Pinellas County on Wednesday, although Scott confirmed a new infection in Palm Beach County, raising the number of nontravel-related cases in Florida to 43.

At the roundtable, Buckhorn said Tampa may contract with firms for additional mosquito spraying, a function that is the responsibility of Hillsborough County. It follows his announcement Monday that code enforcement officers will target standing water in vacant homes with briquets that kill mosquito larvae.

"I'm not certain the urban areas are going to get the attention they deserve," Buckhorn said. "I'm not averse as a mayor to aggressive effort within the city to do additional spraying."

U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Belleair Bluffs, on Wednesday also stepped up his criticism of state health officials who for the second day remained tight-lipped about the home and work location of the Pinellas woman who contracted the virus.

Zika has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with smaller-than-normal heads and developmental problems. Jolly says residents need far more information, including an approximate location of the individual case and an advisory on where they should take extra precautions.

The lack of information will only create fear and uncertainty among pregnant women and those trying to start a family as he and his wife, Laura, are doing, he said.

"We're actively trying to have a family, and if we see a mosquito truck coming down the street, we're going to make decisions based on that information," Jolly said. "They should not wait like they did in Miami for it to spread; the stakes are too high."

Philip said the department won't reveal where the infected woman lives unless the neighborhood is classified as an active transmission zone. That would require the presence of additional linked infections. So far, people who were in close contact with the woman, who lives in Pinellas but works in Hillsborough, have tested negative for Zika.

"Oftentimes transmission may occur away from the residence of that individual," Philip said. "Having that information presented without us understanding better the time line and where exposure occurred is not helpful from a public health perspective."

An epidemiological investigation into the case still seeks to determine how the woman contracted the virus and to identify if she may have exposed others to the infection.

Even before the Pinellas case was confirmed, mosquito-abatement efforts on both sides of Tampa Bay were stepped up around locations where the resident spent time.

Across Tampa Bay, local agencies and governments are being vigilant for any further reports of infection and are increasing efforts to contain the virus.

Doug Holt, the director of the Hillsborough County Health Department, said his staff tracks travelers returning from areas where Zika is common and directs outdoor spraying efforts with them in mind. Those travelers are also asked to use repellent and wear long sleeves and pants to protect against mosquitoes.

"We're doing everything we can to prevent transmission," Holt said.

In St. Petersburg, Mayor Rick Kriseman's office asks city residents to use the See Click Fix smartphone application to report mosquito problems or standing water where mosquitoes might breed.

Since the locally transmitted case was announced Tuesday morning, Pinellas County has received more than 200 service requests for mosquito spraying and reports of standing water.

In Hillsborough, the county's Rapid Response team has removed 3,066 tires, deployed 544 mosquito dunks, cleaned up 593 potential mosquito breeding sites and removed 296 tons of waterlogged debris from county rights of way since February.

"We are laser-focused on getting rid of this mosquito and any virus it does cause," Murman said.

Times staff writer Charlie Frago contributed to this report. Contact Christopher O'Donnell at codonnell@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. FILE  - In this Aug. 28, 2019, file photo, a man exhales while smoking an e-cigarette in Portland, Maine. Walmart says it will stop selling electronic cigarettes at its namesake stores and Sam's Clubs following a string of illnesses and deaths related to vaping.  The nation's largest retailer said Friday, Sept. 20 that it will complete its exit from e-cigarettes after selling through current inventory. It cited growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity regarding vaping products. ROBERT F. BUKATY  |  AP
    The nation’s largest retailer said Friday that it will complete its exit from e-cigarettes after selling through current inventory.
  2. Erik Maltais took an unconventional path to becoming CEO of Immertec, a virtual reality company aimed at training physicians remotely. He dropped out of school as a teenager, served in Iraq in the Marine Corps and eventually found his way to Tampa. OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES  |  Times
    Software from Immertec can bring physicians into an operating room thousands of miles away.
  3. Homeowner Cheryl Murdoch, 59, explains the workings of the Philips Smart Mirror in her bathroom. Murdoch and her husband live in the Epperson neighborhood in Wesley Chapel, home of the Crystal Lagoon, where some residents are piloting new health technologies inside their homes. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    In Pasco’s Crystal Lagoon community, AdventHealth and Metro Development Group are testing in-home technology aimed at keeping people away from the hospital.
  4. Dr. Paul McRae was the first black chief of staff at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. Dr. McRae died on September 13, 2019. He was photographed here in the Tampa Bay Times photo studio for the 2008 Dr. Carter G Woodson Museum's "Legends Honorees" gala. BOYZELL HOSEY  |  BOYZELL HOSEY  |  Times
    ‘His extraordinary example paved the way for so many others.’
  5. Michael Jenkins spent seven days at North Tampa Behavioral Health last July. Since then, he says his three children have been afraid he’ll leave and not come home. JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times
    The patients have no choice, and the hospital is making millions.
  6. Samantha Perez takes a call for someone in need of counseling at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay earlier this year. The center handles calls dealing with suicide, sexual assault, homelessness and other traumatic situations. They also do outreach and counseling, and operate Transcare, an ambulance service. JONES, OCTAVIO  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Florida’s mental health care system saves lives.
  7. The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County identified a positive case of hepatitis A in a food service worker at Hamburger Mary's in Ybor City on Oct. 22, 2018. [JOSH FIALLO | Times] JOSH FIALLO | TIMES  |  JOSH FIALLO | Times
    Slightly more than 200,000 people have been vaccinated this year — a huge jump from the 49,324 people vaccinated in all of 2018.
  8. FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2014, file photo, a patron exhales vapor from an e-cigarette at a store in New York. Under the Trump administration, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb kicked off his tenure in 2017 with the goal of making cigarettes less addictive by drastically cutting nicotine levels. He also rebooted the agency’s effort to ban menthol flavoring in cigarettes. But those efforts have been largely eclipsed by the need to respond to an unexpected explosion in e-cigarette use by teens. AP
    Hundreds of people nationwide have come down with lung illness related to vaping.
  9. This May 2018, photo provided by Joseph Jenkins shows his son, Jay, in the emergency room of the Lexington Medical Center in Lexington, S.C. Jay Jenkins suffered acute respiratory failure and drifted into a coma, according to his medical records, after he says he vaped a product labeled as a smokable form of the cannabis extract CBD. Lab testing commissioned as part of an Associated Press investigation into CBD vapes showed the cartridge that Jenkins says he puffed contained a synthetic marijuana compound blamed for at least 11 deaths in Europe. JOSEPH JENKINS  |  AP
    The vapor that Jenkins inhaled didn’t relax him. After two puffs, he ended up in a coma.
  10. H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute is the centerpiece of Project Arthur, an 800-acre corporate park that could include up 24 million square feet of office and industrial space on nearly 7,000 acres of what is now ranch land, but targeted for development in central Pasco. Times
    The H. Lee Moffitt facility is the centerpiece of an economic development effort in a proposed 800-acre corporate park.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement