Tracking COVID-19 in Tampa Bay

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USF aims to identify where clusters of COVID-19 cases are occurring in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties

USF researchers are adapting a symptom-based surveillance program developed and used in Puerto Rico to help identify COVID-19 hotspots in the Tampa Bay region.  

Called a syndromic surveillance platform, the technology was developed by the Puerto Rico Science Trust, and was recently launched in the Boston area through Harvard University.

The surveillance platform has been adapted for the Tampa Bay region and was launched, April 15, said Thomas Unnasch, PhD, distinguished professor in the USF College of Public Health and director of the Center for Global Health Infectious Disease Research.

“Currently, testing for COVID-19 infection is limited to those most likely to be infected,” said Unnasch. “This system is missing about 90 percent of infections exhibiting mild or no symptoms.”

COVID-19 cases in Pinellas and Hillsborough County broken down by zip code, as tracked and entered by the Hillsborough County Health Department on April 16, 2020.

In order to get a better idea of how many cases there actually are in the Tampa Bay area and where they are occurring, the USF College of Public Health, Hillsborough and Pinellas County Departments of Health, Public Health Program of Ponce Health Sciences University and the Puerto Rico Health Trust have collaborated to create the Tampa Bay symptom surveillance survey. 

The survey uses an existing platform which allowed for a quicker dissemination to the Tampa Bay region, according to Unnasch. 

This critical data will tell a full story of how many are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and in what pockets across the community are more affected than others.

“This information will be invaluable in helping to plan for what is to come in the epidemic and to identify the places in our community where transmission is likely to be the most intense,” Unnasch said.

Those in the community who feel they may have COVID-19 can fill out the survey that ask questions about symptoms and exposure.

USF Health care providers are screening answers and will contact those whose symptoms warrant further examination.

To take part in the survey, visit: https://bit.ly/TampaBayCOVID19

-USF College of Public Health-

Established in 1984 as the first college of public health in the State of Florida, the USF College of Public Health is a recognized leader in community health, online education, maternal and child health, social marketing, and global infectious disease research. Ranked as the #1 public health degree program in the state by U.S. News and World Report (2019), the college offers multiple concentrations that lead to BSHS, BSPH, MHA, MPH, MSPH, DrPH, and PhD degrees, as well as several dual degrees, graduate certificates and online programs. To learn more about the college and students who commit to passionately solve problems and create conditions that allow every person the universal right to health and well-being, visit publichealth.usf.edu.

-USF Health-
USF Health’s mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the Taneja College of Pharmacy, the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, the Biomedical Sciences Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs, and USF Health’s multispecialty physicians group. The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. For more information, visit health.usf.edu