Counties heed the call to step up Zika virus fight


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The state health department is calling on every city and county in Texas to step up their efforts to fight the Zika virus. Twenty cases have now been confirmed in the state, 157 across the country. A check with health authorities in Hays, Travis and Williamson counties finds they are picking up the pace ahead of what could be a troublesome spring.

The counties are speeding up outreach campaigns to educate schools, hospitals and neighborhoods. They are setting more traps, and moving up test schedules. They’re conducting constant conference call updates and working with local health clinics. But the truth is, the heavy lifting is mostly up to all of us. John Teel, executive director of the Williamson County & Cities Health District, explains, “There are not enough employees in any city or county or health district to get out and handle all these potential breeding sites. So we’re asking all of our citizens to be their own mosquito police. Inspect your yard, look for standing water where they breed, and call your local health department if you need some advice.”

Meantime the state is stepping up it’s testing capacity at the Austin lab, where they can currently handle 135 human cases a week. And don’t forget about West Nile virus. This warm weather may bring it on sooner. But Catherine Zettel Nalen says Zika sticks to its own timetable, “The Zika mosquitoes actually go by the length of daylight, so even if the weather is a bit warmer, they won’t come out until it’s reached the correct daylight for them to emerge.”

That would be around May. And remember Zika mosquitoes feed all day and night, not just at dusk or dawn. So get rid of any standing water and keep yourself covered. Incidentally, any spraying is usually done by cities. In Williamson County for example only, Georgetown has a license to spray. Other cities could hire private contractors, if it comes to that.

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