PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) —- Non-travel related cases of the Zika virus are no longer confined to the Miami area. Pinellas County has its first case of non-travel related Zika, Florida Governor Rick Scott said Tuesday.
Scott made the announcement during a Zika virus round table held Tuesday morning in Clearwater.
“Today, we learned that the Florida Department of Health is investigating one new individual with non-travel related Zika in Pinellas County. While this investigation is ongoing, the DOH still believes that ongoing active transmissions are only occurring in the two previously identified areas in Wynwood and Miami Beach,” Governor Scott said.
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip told reporters it’s not clear yet how or where the person in Pinellas County contracted the virus. Dr. Philip would only say it’s a non-travel related case and investigators have also ruled out sexual transmission.
“Non-travel related means that they have not gone to a place where there is known, ongoing transmission,” she said.
Gov. Scott said efforts are underway to control mosquitoes. “Now, just because we have one case here doesn’t mean we have local transmission. The next step is the Department of Health, the local department of health, working with mosquito control efforts. They will start doing aggressive mosquito control and they will be doing aggressive testing to find out if we have local transmission,” he added.
The governor said that the Department of Health and Pinellas County Mosquito Control are already working together and have begun aggressive spraying and mosquito abatement efforts.
“We want our tourists to come here and we can keep people safe, but we’ve got to be very aggressive about at no standing water, nowhere. Everybody has got to be aggressive about no standing water,” the governor said.
Scott also told reporters the area where the virus is being spread in South Florida appears to be shrinking. There are four new non-travel related cases of Zika virus in the Miami-Dade area, but officials said there is good news out of that area.
“So as of today, we only have two areas in the state where we believe we have local transmission. One area is the first area is Wynwood, and the good news there is as a result of education and aggressive mosquito abatement we are now able to cut that area basically in half. So now it started out as about one square mile; now it’s less than one half square mile,”he said.
Any Pinellas County resident who would like to request mosquito control services for their residence or business should contact Pinellas County Mosquito Control. More details are available here.
Pregnant women will be able to get a free Zika test kit. “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,” Scott said. “We remain fully committed to ensuring that every county has all of the resources they need to combat this virus and stand ready to assist residents and visitors in the impacted communities.”
An infectious disease specialist told News Channel 8 everyone should monitor Zika updates – especially pregnant women. “Females who are of childbearing age who are thinking about becoming pregnant, it’s very important for them to be aware of this issue. And for men as well, because it can be transmitted through sex,” Dr. Ileana Acevedo said.
Local politicians talk about Zika funding
In February President Barack Obama requested $1.9 billion in emergency funds to develop a vaccine and control the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus. But lawmakers left Washington in mid-July for a seven-week recess without approving any of the money.
Abortion politics played a central role in the impasse.
Republicans angered Democrats by adding a provision to a $1.1 billion take-it-or-leave-it measure that would have blocked Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico from receiving money.
U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Belleair Bluffs, told News Channel 8 he will vote for any Zika funding package “that comes to the floor.” Jolly said he told Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan that.
“I’ve begun to vote for the president’s bill, for the House bill, for the Senate bill. This is an urgent matter we need to solve today,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor agrees. “It’s really unconscionable that the Congress adjourned way back in July … so really Congress should return now and pass the emergency Zika response package,” said Castor, D-Tampa. “There’s bipartisan support in Florida but not across the country.”
Castor said this Pinellas case hits home.
“We’ve got to err on the side of prevention, provide the tools that our communities need, the tools our researchers need to develop the vaccine, the diagnostic tests,” she added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Here’s a look at the number of Zika cases in Florida by county as reported by The Florida Department of Health. All cases are travel related. Click the red dot to see the latest number of cases. Data as of Aug. 24, 2016.
Total cases not involving pregnant women: 523
Cases involving pregnant women: 70
Source: The Florida Department of Health
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