County given huge fund in battle against insect disease
By Ian White
THE PERENNIAL local war on mosquitoes has been given a massive shot in the arm as the state and federal governments pour money into fighting their diseases, including zika.
The county health district announced on Friday that it has been awarded $613,380 in federal funding through the state’s health services department to spend on prevention of and response to the insects’ diseases, including $126,000 for mosquito control.
Officials said the health district will use the money on zika-virus surveillance, planning, response, outreach and education, including the purchase of equipment to be used in neighborhood spraying “in the event locally-acquired cases occur in the county”.
Among the equipment listed for purchase are handheld foggers, backpack sprayers, chemicals and traps that can be used in areas as small as homeowners’ backyards.
John Marshall, director of the county’s mosquito control division, said investing in such close-quarters equipment is critical because “the species of mosquito known to transmit the zika virus tends to stay close to homes and not travel far”.
The district said the rest of the funding will be used “primarily for surveillance supplies, prevention kits and public awareness”, adding that the prevention kits “will include mosquito dunks, mosquito repellents and condoms”.
Randy Valcin, the district’s director responsible for epidemiology and public-health emergency preparedness, said: “The kits will be distributed in the neighborhoods of locally-acquired cases so people at increased risk will have the tools to protect themselves”.
Fight The Bite, a year-old public-awareness campaign, is to be ramped up with billboard, website and newspaper advertising, along with messages on social media, and a health communications specialist is to be hired to emphasize the dangers of zika to county residents.
District communications director Scott Packard said the funding is a slice of $9.7 million the state is allocating to local health departments to fight the zika virus until mid 2018.
He said the district submitted a budget for its proposed use of the funding this week and expects approval by March.
County health authority Philip Keiser said: “Zika virus continues to be an emerging health threat we all need to take seriously”.
And health district chief executive Kathy Barroso said the funding will provide “even more resources to make sure that our response is fast, effective and provides the maximum protection to our county”.
Photo by Day Donaldson/MGN