Florida’s First Case of EV-D68 Confirmed

By on October 10th, 2014 | Last updated: October 15, 2014 at 8:57 am
This is a generic photo of an enterovirus. The CDC is waiting to receive a photo of EV-D68 from their lab.

Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This is a generic photo of an enterovirus. The CDC is waiting to receive a photo of EV-D68 from their lab.

Florida’s first case of enterovirus D68 was confirmed Tuesday by the Florida Department of Health.

However, EV-D68 is not new. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus was originally isolated in California in 1962 and is rarely reported in the United States.

Only 79 cases of EV-D68 were reported between 2009 and 2013, but the CDC and state public health laboratories have confirmed 664 people in 45 states and the District of Columbia have been confirmed with a respiratory illness caused by EV-D68 from mid-August to Oct. 8. Admissions for severe respiratory illnesses have continued at rates higher than expected for this time of year, according to the CDC.

While most cases of EV-D68 cause respiratory illnesses, the full spectrum of the disease is still unclear since a limited number of laboratories in the United States are able to identify the virus. Although those detections are voluntarily reported to the National Enterovirus Surveillance System, the participating laboratories are encouraged to submit monthly summaries including the virus type, specimen type and collection date.

According to the Florida Department of Health, EV-D68 is highly contagious and spreads through cough and sneeze droplets or when someone touches contaminated surfaces like a counter-top or doorknob. Hand-washing with soap and water is recommended since alcohol-based sanitizers have not been effective against EV-D68.

Rasheeta Turner, communications specialist for the Florida Department of Health, said kids and teens are most likely to contract the virus, but adults and older children are still able to contract it as well. Children who have a history of asthma or respiratory diseases are at a higher risk.

Florida is the 44th state to have a confirmed case of EV-D68 this year.  Its first case was documented after a 10-year-old girl was treated at Tampa General Hospital in early September.

John Dunn, spokesman for Tampa General Hospital, said the 10-year-old girl was transferred from an unnamed hospital to Tampa General Hospital where she stayed to receive treatment for six days. Vaccines or specific treatments are not available for EV-D68, and clinical care is supportive, according to a report from the CDC.

“Quite honestly, there’s not a whole lot you can do with Enterovirus,” Dunn said. “It’s not like you can give them a pill or a shot and cure them. It’s just something that has to run its course.”

According to FDOH, the girl who contracted the virus was treated in Hillsborough County and is recovering in Polk County. Steve Huard, spokesman for FDOH in Hillsborough County, said she is doing well.

Huard said it’s hard to know the true risk EV-D68 has on the community.

“This is the first case [in Florida],” he said. “We’ve seen cases throughout the state, so I would think that we would probably see more, but we’re not expecting an epidemic proportion of cases.”

According to a press release by Jason Geary, senior media relations analyst for Polk County Public Schools, FDOH has been in contact with the school the girl attends. As of right now, the department is not releasing the name of the girl or the school.

According to the release, the Polk County School District is taking precautionary measures. Within the schools, teachers will encourage students to practice good hygiene by regularly washing their hands.

Other steps to prevent this virus will include having custodians for the schools continue to disinfect doorknobs, push-door plates and handrails. In addition, an EPA-approved disinfectant will be used to clean hard surfaces in offices and classrooms.

“Keep in mind, these respiratory infections are not uncommon during this time of year,” said Scott Sjoblom, spokesman for the FDOH in Polk County, “and the symptoms do appear very similar in nature to other respiratory type infections like other strains of the Enterovirus or even influenza.”

Nurses in school clinics received a memorandum from the FDOH in Polk County with information about EV-D68 to promote awareness of the possible symptoms associated with the virus. According to the release, nurses will be looking for students showing any of the symptoms.

EVD68 Infographic 2

According to the CDC, mild symptoms of the virus include a fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and body and muscle aches. Severe symptoms include wheezing and difficulty breathing.

In order to prevent the spread of EV-D68, the CDC suggests avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, washing hands frequently with soap and water, covering coughs and sneezes with a shirt sleeve or tissue instead of hands, and cleaning surfaces like toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is showing symptoms.

“Despite the fact that this is the first case to be confirmed in Florida, there’s really no cause for parents to be alarmed,” Sjoblom said. “Respiratory viruses are common this time of year, and so as long as they continue to practice those healthy hygiene habits, it’s going to be the best thing that they can do to help keep their family safe.”

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City Commission Tests Telephone Town Hall Meeting

By on October 9th, 2014 | Last updated: October 9, 2014 at 5:54 pm

In an effort to better connect with residents, the Gainesville City Commission tested a “phone-conference” town hall meeting.

At 6 p.m. yesterday, the company Telephone Town Hall Meeting called about 23,000 Gainesville landlines. Callers who stayed on the line could listen to the meeting live from city hall, and ask questions about the transportation surtax initiative that residents will vote on Nov. 4.

The City of Gainesville Commission tested a “phone-conference” town hall meeting. This allows residents to listen, and participate in, town hall meetings from the comfort of their own home.

Ccourtesy of City of Gainesville Communications Office

The City of Gainesville Commission tested a “phone-conference” town hall meeting. This allows residents to listen, and participate in, town hall meetings from the comfort of their own home.

Caller’s questions were vetted through a screening process done by the hired service. They were then given one minute to speak.

During the hour and fifteen minute meeting, commissioners responded to more than a dozen questions. Over 2,000 people listened to the meeting for at least a minute, and at the peak of calls, more than 500 residents were listening in at the same time, according to Becky Rountree, the administrative services director for the city.

The commission deemed the innovative test a success.

“It far exceeded my expectations,” said Commissioner Todd Chase. “Our whole purpose was to test if this is a good way to reach out to our community, and I can tell you that in my four years in office, I’ve never been before more than 400 people.”

Lila Stewart, senior strategic planner for the city, said the telephone format was used to try and include people who normally can’t attend town hall meetings.

“We are hoping to give people who can’t make it to city hall [for the evening] a chance to be engaged from their home,” she said.

The city hall auditorium seats approximately 100 people, and there are overflow rooms in the building where people can watch the meeting from television screens. Mayor Ed Braddy said that while some town hall meetings get more attendance than others, the commissioners tend to see the same 20 to 25 residents.

Braddy said being able to gather more opinions and feedback from residents helps the city commission better serve the community.

“[The city commissioners] are the ones supposed to carry out the will of the people, and it’s sometimes kind of hard to gauge that will if you’re not effectively communicating with the public,” he said. “So this is a tool that we have to more effectively communicate with that public, and a larger number and a more representative sampling I think gives us good feedback”

Stewart said that the city had shopped various phone-conference services before doing business with Telephone Town Hall Meeting. The company has hosted conferences for other Florida municipalities like Palm Bay, Fort Lauderdale and North Port.

President of Telephone Town Hall Meeting, Curt Cerveny, said that the company collects landline telephone numbers through public records.

The company is not legally able to call cell phones, but residents can opt in by submitting their cell phone number to a website linked to their respective city. Only about 10 residents provide cell numbers last night. Cerveny said that because the calls are mainly made to landlines, the people receiving the calls tend to be older.

The city commission spent $4,500 for Wednesday’s meeting. But Braddy said it was money well spent, and it is something he and the commission will discuss using again.

“Relative to some of our other expenditures, that’s a great bargain to be able to reach hundreds, if not thousands, of citizens that we otherwise would miss,” he said.

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University Of Florida Panel Discusses Ebola Epidemic

By on October 9th, 2014 | Last updated: October 9, 2014 at 5:48 pm
University of Florida medical anthropologist Sharon Abramowitz calls for a culturally appropriate intervention in Liberia in response to the Ebola outbreak. Abramowitz addressed the crowd at an Ebola forum in Pugh Hall at UF in Gainesville, Fla., on Wednesday, October 8, 2014.

Christina Callicott / WUFT News

University of Florida medical anthropologist Sharon Abramowitz calls for a culturally appropriate intervention in Liberia in response to the Ebola outbreak. Abramowitz addressed the crowd at an Ebola forum in Pugh Hall at UF in Gainesville, Fla., on Wednesday, October 8, 2014.

As concern over Ebola grows in the U.S. and other countries, the University of Florida hosted a panel discussion on Wednesday night with four faculty members on the epidemic in West Africa.

“What universities do best is create knowledge,” Leonardo Villalon, Dean of the UF International Center said. “They do so by understanding and discussing complex situations and then sharing that knowledge. Our most important role now as a University is to do exactly that.

The panel consisted of Dr. Paul Psychas, assistant professor of community health and family medicine; Sharon Abramowitz, assistant professor of anthropology; Timothy Nevin, a visiting professor in the Department of History; and Jill Sonke, director of the Center for Arts in Medicine. Villalon moderated the discussion.

The main consensus among the four was that community mobilization, both in the African communities as well as in the U.S. would be a tremendous help to curbing the epidemic.

“One of the keys in controlling this epidemic is getting the youth and the rest of the community involved,” Nevin said.

He has worked in Liberia and stated that the emphasis certain African cultures place on touching used in greetings and burial ceremonies is a large factor in the spread of the virus.

Psychas, who has also worked with Ebola in Africa thinks that the virus does not have a high chance of spreading in the U.S. because of the difference in the reasons Nevin highlighted, as well as the medical systems in place.

“It would be like a spark in a damp meadow,” Psychas said. “It will spark but it won’t catch fire.”

Another point panelists touched on was how the UF community can prepare for a potential spread of the virus.

“This is obviously a humanitarian crisis; I’d love to see fundraising,” Psychas said. “To collect stuff is just a burden for students and the countries they send it to. Cash is the way to go.”

Students can also help by informing themselves and peers about Ebola, being aware of the disease and the potential risks, and thinking about it in terms of a global community, Jill Sonke stated in the discussion.

The discussion lasted two hours and was held in Pugh hall. About 150 UF faculty, students and local community members were in attendance.

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Oct. 9, 2014: Afternoon News in 90

By on October 9th, 2014 | Last updated: October 9, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Jacob Schrull produced this update.

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Treon Harris’s Attorney Releases Statement Regarding Sexual Battery Accusations

By on October 9th, 2014 | Last updated: October 9, 2014 at 4:15 pm

UPDATE, 4:10 p.m.Johnson & Osteryoung, P.A. released a statement Thursday in response to an 18-page redacted statement released by the University of Florida the day before.

Treon Harris’ attorney Huntley Johnson said he found the University’s statement was leading to “some pretty wild speculation,” and wanted to “attempt to set the record straight.”

Harris is currently not allowed on the University campus, Johnson said. He is able to continue taking the online classes that he was already enrolled in, but is not allowed to attend any on campus classes. The University would neither confirm nor deny this statement as student privacy laws protect specific student information.

His suspension from campus also includes his residence hall, the Springs Complex, so Harris is currently off campus. “I understand he’s living in an apartment,” Johnson said.

Original Post: Johnson & Osteryoung P. A. released a statement “to help clarify the circumstances surrounding the investigation of Treon Harris.”

Harris was accused of sexual battery on Monday. He has been suspended from all football team activities and the University of Florida’s campus pending completion of the investigation.

Read the full release below.

Press Release Treon Harris – Huntley Johnson by wuftnews

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Oct. 9, 2014: Morning News In 90

By on October 9th, 2014 | Last updated: October 9, 2014 at 11:18 am

Edwin Exaus produced this update.

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Researchers meet at the University of Florida to discuss Ebola

By on October 9th, 2014 | Last updated: October 9, 2014 at 10:56 am

Anthropologists and researchers hosted a forum at Pugh Hall at the University of Florida to discuss the recent outbreak of Ebola. Dr. Paul Psychas and Sharon Abramowitz explained the disease and answered questions from attendees.

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In the News: New UF Diabetes Institute, District 6 Senate Election, Columbia County Car Fire, Expected State Road Speed Limit Increase

By on October 9th, 2014 | Last updated: October 9, 2014 at 10:15 am
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One Dead in Fatal Car Accident on SW 34th Street

By and on October 8th, 2014 | Last updated: October 9, 2014 at 11:29 am
A woman in her 40s was killed on SW 34th Street on Wednesday at 7:20 p.m. At least two other vehicles were involved.

Katie Campbell / WUFT News

A 51-year-old woman was killed on SW 34th Street on Wednesday at 7:20 p.m. At least two other vehicles were involved.

UPDATE, 9:10 a.m.: The victim has been identified as Marion Rose Harvey, 51. According to Tobias, Harvey was rear-ended and pushed into a stationary truck in front of her.

“When officers arrived, she still had a pulse and CPR was performed, however her condition rapidly declined due to the traumatic injuries,” Tobias said in a release. “She was pronounced dead at the ER.”

UPDATE, 10:30 p.m.: The Gainesville Police Department announced via Twitter that SW 34th Street has been reopened.

Original Post: A female scooter driver in her 40s was killed Wednesday in an accident that occurred near the 34th Street Wall at 7:20 p.m.

Gainesville Police Department spokesman Ben Tobias said a northbound vehicle struck the scooter from behind, propelling the scooter into a pickup truck. As of about 9:30 p.m., GPD had identified the victim and was working on notifying the family.

“We do not believe that alcohol is a factor in the crash, and we’re not sure if any unlawful speed was a factor in the crash,” Tobias said. “I know the vehicles that you see may indicate something different, may indicate a pretty high velocity, but our investigators still have a lot of work to do to figure out what’s going on.”

At this point in the investigation, nothing has indicated fault or criminal activity; no citations have been issued nor will any be issued until the completion of the full investigation.

Tobias said he believes the driver of the northbound vehicle was taken to the hospital, but no other serious injuries have been reported. Those involved in the accident are “obviously rattled and shaken up a little bit.”

“Any time that they’re involved in such a traumatic incident, it’s a very serious thing for them,” he said. “What we do is we bring a crisis team, which works with the Alachua County Crisis Health Center. We have a team of counselors that will come out on scene and speak with these drivers because we understand that it’s a very traumatic time for them.”

Tobias estimated traffic delays lasting until at least 11 p.m. if not later.

“Whenever we have an investigation such as this, and you can see the debris field that was left by this unfortunate crash,” he said, “we have to go through every single piece debris that’s on the roadway because even the smallest piece can tell us how the crash occurred.”

Traffic is currently being diverted through the University of Florida’s campus to Radio Road and SW 2nd Avenue.


Sydney Martin contributed to this report. 

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UF Releases Preliminary Report on the Harris Battery Accusation

By on October 8th, 2014 | Last updated: October 8, 2014 at 6:36 pm

The University of Florida released a redacted incident report this afternoon on the accusations of sexual battery reported earlier this week by Florida freshman quarterback Treon Harris.

The University is citing student privacy regulations in releasing an 18-page document that consists mostly of grey boxes. The only information in the report is information on Harris and the reporting officer.

UF spokesperson Janine Sikes wrote in an e-mail to media that the report “has been redacted in accordance with 119.071(2)(c)1. Active criminal intelligence information and active criminal investigative information are exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution.”

Sikes also wrote that the University “cannot discuss what is happening at all because it is protected by student privacy laws. What I can provide you with is an overview of the Student Conduct Code process.” Sikes referenced the Student Conduct Code site.

No formal charges have been publicly filed against Harris in this incident.

Here’s the report:


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