Saturday, January 25, 2020

Important Information Regarding Zika Virus

You may have heard a lot about Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease, recently featured in the news.  On February 1, 2016 the World Health Organization called it a public health emergency.

The City of Southlake has made preparations for this new threat by updating our mosquito response plan which accounts for all arbovirus threats. While there is not a test for the Zika virus at this time, we can sample for the Aedes mosquito to look for population spikes that indicate a nearby breeding source to be treated or removed.

It is important to note that the Aedes mosquito prefers artificial breeding sources such as standing water which is typically found in French drains and gutters; natural habitats such as creeks and ponds have natural predators to mosquito larvae that balance the mosquito population. In addition to updating the Mosquito Response Plan, the City of Southlake will acquire a total of three mosquito traps that specifically target the Aedes mosquito. These traps will be strategically placed throughout the City to look for population spikes in the Aedes mosquito population.

“City of Southlake staff members are aware of the concerns shared by the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. We are following developments of this disease closely with our partners, including  Tarrant County Public Health, to ensure the City of Southlake is ready to respond, if needed,” says Ben Williamson, Southlake Emergency Management Coordinator.

Only 1 in 5 people infected with the Zika virus will become ill which is characterized by fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis; the Zika virus has been linked to the more serious condition of Microcephaly in pregnancy which is defined as an abnormal smallness of the head associated with incomplete brain development. The Zika virus made a serious foothold in South American countries recently during the southern hemisphere summer months and has begun the potential to spread in North Texas. The yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) transmit the virus from person to person, and are an aggressive day biters. These mosquitos are found locally in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including Southlake, and also spread dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever.

No locally acquired cases have been detected in the United States, but, because mosquitoes are dormant right now the risk of locally acquiring this disease is very low. However, as the temperatures begin to rise and mosquitoes begin to emerge this spring you are encouraged to remain vigilant. It is especially important for women who are pregnant (any trimester) or who may become pregnant in the near future to avoid mosquito bites. There are still many unknowns with this virus, but the CDC has indicated:

  • Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
  • Women trying to become pregnant should consult with their healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.

The CDC does not know the risk to the infant if a woman is infected with Zika virus while she is pregnant.  “The challenge for specialists is that the disease is not detected in mosquitoes first. Per Southlake’s Mosquito Response Plan, developed in conjunction with Tarrant County Health Department, the first indication will be the detection of the disease in a local person” says Christi Upton, Environmental Coordinator for the City of Southlake. “However, Aedes mosquito has a very short flight range, thus any necessary control measures will be focused.”

As warmer weather arrives in Southlake, the community is encouraged to take action to prevent mosquito bites:

    • It is important to remember the best way to prevent bites is to prevent mosquito breeding. Look for standing water. Aedes species prefer container water such as flower pots, bird baths, buckets and water storage containers. Eliminate these sources or vigilantly dump possible sources. Where dumping or eliminating the water is not possible consider treating the water with mosquito dunks.
    • Consistently wear insect repellant with DEET
    • Wear long sleeves and long pants.
    • Consult your healthcare provider if you have a concern about family planning or appropriate personal mosquito prevention measures for your unique situation.

Important Resources for Additional Information: