Many Texas Counties Ill-Equipped for Zika Fight

Byron Chism, a mosquito technician with Dallas County, sets a mosquito trap to capture subjects for testing in Dallas, Friday, May 11, 2007. With the arrival of spring rainstorms and steamy weather, mosquito-control workers in Texas and across the nation are gearing up for another round in their battle against …
AP File Photo/LM Otero

The responsibility for protecting our communities in Texas from the Zika virus is local and municipal, say mosquito experts. The problem is that poorer areas do not have the expertise or the manpower because of their low tax base. Texas counties without formal mosquito districts or like services are ill-equipped to address Zika virus concerns.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The prevention or reduction of transmission of DENV (dengue fever), ZIKV (Zika virus), and CHIKV (chikungunya) … is completely dependent on the control of mosquito vectors and limiting person-mosquito contact.”

Experts say that local control, and control by people in the community through what is called “Source Reduction,” is our best defense against the mosquito that bears the virus. In other words, citizens are being asked to protect themselves and our neighborhoods by eliminating the places where mosquitoes breed.

Moreover, the website of the CDC provides that “Whereas mosquito-based surveillance is the preferred method for monitoring or predicting West Nile virus outbreaks, it is not the preferred method for monitoring or predicting DENV, CHIKV, YFV (yellow fever), or ZIKV outbreaks. For these autoviruses, it is more efficient to detect cases in people.”

Unfortunately, having people infected with the virus, and citizen complaints, will be in some communities, like those with smaller counties with no sophisticated formal mosquito districts or municipal health department, be the way the threat to our communities is identified. One of the functions of a mosquito control district is to conduct surveillance to detect the presence and proliferation of mosquitoes.

In Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services’ (DSHS) website, DSHS is not responsible for conducting mosquito control spraying in the state. The state agency reports that “Vector control is up to the mosquito-control districts and local health departments.”

The term “vector control” refers to the methods for monitoring, controlling, and eradicating, “any insect or anthropod, rodent, or other animal of public health significance capable of harboring or transmitting the causative agents of human disease.”

Moreover, the DSHS website states that “Mosquito control can be divided into two areas of responsibility: individual and public. Public spraying to control mosquitoes is only one of many pest-control methods used for effective long-term mosquito control.”

Yet experts say that for the Zika virus, spraying is not a very effective way of dealing with the problem because of the unique characteristics of the mosquito that carries the virus.

Professor Jeff Flosi, associate professor of Biology and Microbiology at the University of Houston-Downtown told Breitbart Texas, “You cannot use the same spray technology in the same way as the West Nile virus.” He said that the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus are diurnal, not nocturnal, and thermal heat currents carry the spray away. With traditional mosquito control spraying that occurs at night with an old-fashioned truck, the spray does not drift the same. Flosi also serves as the president of the Texas Mosquito Control Association.

The Zika virus spreads through mosquito bites, in particular from the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The insect also carries diseases such as yellow fever, Chikungunya, and dengue fever. The virus is carried by the same two types of Aedes mosquitoes that carry dengue fever which is prevalent on the Texas-Mexico border, and the virus Chikungunya, which first entered the state in 2014, with more cases last year, Breitbart Texas reported.

DSHS reports that “In Texas, some city and county governmental agencies have programs for mosquito control. Very often, it is the responsibility of the property owner to address these issues to prevent the creation of a nuisance or public health threat.”

The Texas agency says that “The reduction, elimination, or treatment of mosquito-breeding areas is the best and most cost-effective technique for mosquito control,” and that the most important thing that citizens can do is to reduce the risk of exposure. Citizens must help by not allowing water to accumulate in gutters, bird baths, tires, and plant trays and the like, for more than two days. This is what is referred to as “Source Reduction.”

Professor Flosi told Breitbart Texas, “Remember, the mosquito will bite the hand that breeds it.”

The problem can be with poorer areas of the state. In those areas, as they are in all social funding, for example, sanitation and school districts to name a few, these areas are underfunded to deal with the issue. It is a “tax-base issue” says Baylor University professor Richard Duhrkopf. He serves as an associate professor of Biology and is on the Board of Directors of the Texas Mosquito Control Association.

Poorer areas of the state, including counties along the Texas-Mexico border, often have citizens who are less educated. Moreover, mosquito control districts are not there to help with education.

The agency suggests that citizens help with the following in order to eliminate the potential of mosquito-breeding sites in your community and in the environment:

  • Do not allow water to accumulate in the saucers of flowerpots, cemetery urns, or in pet dishes for more than 2 days.
  • Get rid of tin cans, old tires, buckets, unused plastic swimming pools or other containers that collect and hold water.
  • Clean debris from rain gutters, remove standing water from flat roofs, and repair leaks around faucets and air conditioners.
  • Change the water in birdbaths and wading pools at least once a week.
  • Fill or drain puddles, ditches and swampy areas.
  • Check for trapped water in plastic or canvas tarps used to cover boats or pools and arrange the tarp to drain the water.
  • If ditches do not flow and contain stagnant water for a week or longer, report this problem to a mosquito-control district or public health office.

The Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed six travel-related cases of the Zika virus last week and public health officials and medical providers were bracing for more cases. Officials are worried that this could be just the tip of the iceberg, reported Breitbart Texas’ Merrill Hope.

As reported by Breitbart News’ Mary Chastain, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned this past week that the Zika virus in Latin America has “explosive pandemic potential.

The danger of the virus in Texas and the states initially comes from travel to, or from those who have been in El Salvador, Brazil, and Columbia. These countries in particular have seen a huge outbreak of the virus.

Breitbart News reported that Brazil launched a door-to-door campaign using 220,000 soldiers. There have been 4,000 fetus affected cases reported and approximately 200 more are diagnosed every week.

Breitbart News reported that Brazilian authorities have documented thousands of cases of pregnant women diagnosed with Zika giving birth to babies with microcephaly. Children with microcephaly typically suffer severe mental damage.

The “microcephaly epidemic,” as it is referred to in an BBC Brasil article, is reported to affect at least 20 Brazilian states or more and the federal district. Ancenephaly is a condition in which a fetus is missing a portion of the brain, skull, or scalp. Microcephaly is defined as an abnormal smallness of the head, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott took action on Thursday and appointed an infectious disease task force to prepare for the Zika virus in the Lone Star state. He appointed 31 members to the Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, as reported by Breitbart Texas.

The task force was created “to provide expert, evidence-based assessments, protocols, and recommendations related to state responses to infectious diseases, and to serve as a reliable and transparent source of information and education for Texas leadership and citizens,” according to a statement from the Governor’s office.

Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter@LanaShadwick2



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