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Pinellas Has First Case Of Non-Travel-Related Zika

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

State officials are investigating Pinellas County’s first non-travel-related case of Zika virus, according to a release from Gov. Rick Scott’s office.

The governor’s office said it does not believe that there is an active zone of transmission in Pinellas County. Officials are looking into the possibility that the Pinellas County resident was infected with the virus in a neighboring county. Details were not released about where in Pinellas the case was reported. More details will be released following the investigation. 

The virus can be transmitted by mosquitoes or through sex. 

It can take weeks or months to test blood from the infected individual, as well as from relatives and co-workers. Then, epidemiologists work to trace the Zika to its source.

Scott spoke to community leaders at roundtable discussions in Clearwater and New Port Richey about moving forward.

“If we do find out then what we’ll do - we’ll be very - we’re already aggressive in mosquito control, especially when we have something like this, because what happens is the county health department works directly with mosquito control and if they know where an area is, they go after it,” Scott said.

The Pinellas case is one of five new non-travel related cases of Zika announced Tuesday. The four other cases are in the Wynwood area of Miami, which was the first neighborhood where local Zika transmission is believed to have occurred in the United States.

“While this investigation is ongoing, DOH still believes that ongoing active transmissions are only occurring in the two previously identified areas in Wynwood and Miami Beach,” Scott said in a release. “In Pinellas County, the Department of Health and Pinellas County Mosquito Control are already working together and have begun aggressive spraying and mosquito abatement efforts.”

Pregnant woman who want to get a free Zika test or prevention kit should contact the Department of Health in Pinellas County.

Dr. Mary Ashley Cain, an OBGYN at the University of South Florida who specializes in high risk pregnancies, has cared for pregnant woman with travel-related cases of Zika. She said none of those cases resulted in babies with microcephaly, a birth defect that causes abnormally small heads in infants.

Cain said doctors don’t know what percentage of babies get microcephaly when a mother has Zika during pregnancy.

“It's thought that its likely higher to have poor outcomes like microcephaly if its transmitted in the first trimester but were still working to verify that and obtain enough data to definitively tell patients that your risk is this percentage in the first trimester and this in the second or third,” Cain said.

She said expecting mothers should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites but not to get overly stressed about Zika.

“There’s a lot of stressors in pregnancy and this is another one of them and so we want to avoid total panic but be smart about it,” Cain said.

There are 494 travel-related cases of Zika in Florida, 69 of which involve pregnant women.

These five new cases bring the total number of local Zika cases in Florida to 42. That includes several cases in Miami Beach.

Symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash and joint pain but the real risk is to pregnant woman.

Pinellas County residents who want mosquito control to visit their homes or businesses can click here.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.
Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.