I-Team: Pregnant women left in the dark over Zika information

Posted at 7:26 PM, Oct 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-21 19:26:03-04

Expectant mothers in Tampa Bay want to know why they're in the dark when it comes to Zika transparency. Information kept from the public includes the number of pregnant women with the virus by county.
Last checked there are 111 pregnant women who have contracted Zika in Florida, but we have no way of knowing which county they're in.

For expectant mothers Zika is always a concern on the mind.

"Oh yeah! It is on my mind every time i get bit I start freaking out." says expecting mother Rita Shell.

"Spraying myself down with bug spray was a big thing for us." says another soon to be mom Kristin Dutton.

Florida's Department of Health tracks Zika cases across the state, they release stats to the public. County by county you can see how many Zika cases there are.

Except for pregnant women. Pregnant women stats are only counted and released statewide. So you can't find out how many pregnant women have Zika in the county you live in. Something expecting mothers we talked to would like to see change.

"Definitely! I think it's good important information everyone should have because it does affect your child." Dutton replies.

We asked the Department of Health why they can't tell us the number of Zika cases impacting pregnant women by county, they site privacy laws.

"See I don't see it that way as privacy, if there's no name involved then they should. I think you should know it by county." says Shell

We asked Health Department reps, how it violates privacy laws when the patients name is still protected and we're just asking for a number. So they started throwing exemption statutes at us.

One example, "ownership and control of patients records" it can exempt the information but there's a big "however". Records may be released if the information, "is abstracted in such a way as to protect the identity of the patient."

Another records exemption they threw at us was "epidemiological research." But it states, information could be made public, "only when necessary to public health."

After pointing this out to health department officials weeks ago, they have ignored our emails and phone calls, and are keeping the information private.

Congressman David Jolly says the Governor needs to be more transparent with Zika information.

"I think this information should be available to everybody," Congressman Jolly said. "You know my wife and I are hoping to have a family.  It is very relevant to us what the current status of Zika is in Pinellas county. Trust us to make the decisions we think are right for the family."

We asked the governor why there's no transparency on this.

Reporter: "Is there a reason why those numbers can't be released by county?"
Governor Scott: "You'd have to talk to the Department of Health."

So we tried again and they continue to ignore us.

We called the Secretary of the Department of Health and Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip, as the governor directed. We left a messages with her office and the departments media reps once again on Thursday. No one has responded.  We've been trying to get answers from the Department of Health for more than a month.