More than three dozen attendees heard firsthand from the men and women fighting mosquitoes in North Texas. At a forum in Methodist Mansfield Medical Center's cafe Tuesday evening, the hospital teamed up with the Tarrant County Public Health, City of Mansfield, Municipal Mosquito and the Mansfield school district to give the latest information on the ongoing mosquito season and the illnesses that could affect the community.
Russ Jones, chief epidemiologist for Tarrant County Public Health, said the aedes aegypti mosquito is now in North Texas, but no samples have shown Zika virus. He believes south Texas and south Florida will be the first ares in the United States to see cases. So far, none of the Zika cases in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties have originated here. The city of Mansfield has been testing samples of adult mosquitoes and Environmental Services Manager Howard Redfearn says he has seen more in the past week, but no ground spraying has begun. Mosquito experts suggest residents remove all standing water from bird baths, empty tires, children's toys, boats and hot tubs so as not to give the mosquitoes water to breed. If there are pools of water, they urge using the mosquito dunks or donuts regularly to kill the larvae.
Zika still poses the greatest risk to pregnant women because of its confirmed link to birth defects.
“There's really no safe time during pregnancy to contract Zika because we still don’t know at what stage it can affect a growing fetus,” says Dr. Sara Northrop, DO, OB-GYN on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield. “We also recommend any woman trying to conceive to avoid traveling to a Zika-infected region for the two months prior.”
Zika virus, West Nile, Chikungunya and other mosquito-borne illnesses are top of mind for environmental and health officials in North Texas. They believe it’s not a matter of if but when the viruses appear, so public education and vigilance is key.
“Mosquitoes will be a major health concern this summer, and we are taking a proactive approach partnering with our local and county health officials to educate our community on how to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites,” says John Phillips, president of Methodist Mansfield. “We hope to provide information that can protect people from getting sick.”