Friday, April 29, 2016

Be prepared - what cities need to know about Zika

With the recent emergence and rapid spread of the Zika virus abroad, government leaders at all levels have been working to understand the disease and how to prevent, detect and respond to it. Although no cases of local mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus have been confirmed in the United States, there have been dozens of travel-associated cases reported.
Chris Evans, public health entomologist with DHEC, briefed city managers today about the Zika threat. His power point is linked here along with a lot of other good local government resources.

Before 2015, Zika virus outbreaks occurred in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. In May 2015, Zika virus infections were reported in Brazil, and currently outbreaks are occurring in many countries in South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Cases also have been reported in U.S. territories.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zika will continue to spread and it will be difficult to determine how and where the virus will appear over time.

Local government officials have a key role to play in preventing and responding to the threat of Zika through mosquito abatement and public education.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control recently convened a forum of state and local officials to discuss the Zika virus and resources available to local governments in recognition of their role as the front-line defense against the spread of any mosquito-borne viruses.

There's a great DHEC blog post here with details of forum.

Local officials should have mosquito control plans in place that, at a minimum, address abatement and public education. Mosquito control plans involve many municipal departments, including public works, code enforcement and communications, so it’s important elected officials and staff understand their respective roles.

While some cities and towns have their own mosquito abatement plans to destroy mosquito breeding areas and spray pesticides, the best option for many may be to partner with their county government through intergovernmental agreements for mosquito abatement, particularly spraying.

Also, code enforcement can play an important role in abatement efforts. Cities and towns should have and enforce local ordinances aimed at cleaning up properties that harbor mosquito breeding areas. Anything that can hold even an ounce of water is a potential mosquito breeding area. Unkempt properties are prime mosquito breeding areas that local officials can address through code enforcement ordinances.

Educating the public about the dangers of mosquito-borne illness should be an integral part of any mosquito abatement plan. Public information efforts about the virus and how to stop its spread are prime opportunities for local officials to use all available communication tools, including social media.

Multiple resources are available to help officials develop and implement local mosquito control plans. SCDHEC, Clemson University’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, the SC Mosquito Control Association and the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health all offer valuable information.

More information and links to resources are available at (keyword: mosquito abatement). Plus there will be a session at the Annual Meeting focusing on this topic.

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