White House Administration Visits Orange County to Discuss Local Zika Preparedness Efforts

Public Health & Safety

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orange County Director of Health Services Dr. Chris Hunter, along with members of Mosquito Control recently met with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy for a tour of Orange County Mosquito Control to discuss ongoing mosquito-borne illness prevention efforts.

“Providing for the health and safety of our community is one of the fundamental roles of government. In Orange County, we have an extremely skilled team and a robust mosquito control program,” Mayor Jacobs said. “Our team works seamlessly with the Florida Department of Health and our federal partners to do everything possible to proactively combat the spread of the Zika virus and other mosquito borne-illness.”

Orange County Mosquito Control’s field team works proactively to eliminate sources of standing water such as pool tarps, tires, buckets, empty flower pots and other small containers that can collect water. These efforts help eliminate the possible breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Since February, Florida has tracked more than 300 cases of the virus. Orange County has documented 36 travel-related cases. Osceola County has 17 cases, Seminole County recorded 11, and Lake County had one case.

Between June 1 and July 21, team members at Mosquito Control had conducted more than 7,500 field visits in response to suspected and confirmed cases, along with proactive measures and at the request of Orange County residents. “We approach all suspect cases as if positive. This response helps us to mitigate any potential delay that could be attributed to pending laboratory results,” explains Acting Manager for Mosquito Control Kelly Deutsch.

“In addition, while the Florida Department of Health asks mosquito control personnel to focus targeted spraying 225 yards of an area of suspect Zika, Orange County Mosquito Control has elected to expand efforts to a 500-yard radius.”

Orange County Mosquito Control has a working laboratory where researchers examine mosquitoes and larva found within the community. This information helps Orange County identify target areas for treatment and migration trends. Their efforts range from removing standing water, which serves as a breeding area, to providing research and information to partner agencies, along with spraying communities to rid them of mosquitoes. They have experience monitoring and combating various mosquito–borne diseases such as the West Nile virus, St. Louis Encephalitis, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Dengue Fever and the Chikungunya virus.

In addition, Orange County Mosquito Control has submitted more than 1,100 mosquitoes and 65 samples to the Bronson Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Kissimmee, Florida. The lab tests for mosquito-borne illnesses such as Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue fever. All results have been negative.

“We have been working vigorously to mitigate the spread of the virus, but we need more funding to pay for staff, equipment, control materials and monitoring supplies,” Mayor Jacobs added. “The best way to fight this virus is to be proactive.”

Federal funds have helped Orange County Mosquito Control hire 10 additional employees to assist with field work and encourage residents to be aware and vigilant about emptying containers of standing water. The recent funding of approximately $120,000 has also helped purchase additional equipment. Nonetheless, ongoing federal support will be crucial to the success of Orange County’s Mosquito Control program.

In order to prevent mosquito-borne diseases it is important to remember to drain standing or still water to help eliminate breeding. Apply insect repellants containing DEET to repel mosquitoes and wear long sleeves, pants and socks to prevent bites.

Visit Orange County’s Mosquito Safety website for more information.

To view photos from the tour with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary and U.S. Surgeon General, visit Mayor Jacobs’ Flickr album.

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