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Zika Expert: Door To Door Surveillance In Texas Needed

Members of a state task force on infectious disease say more funding is needed to monitor and test the mosquito population for the Zika virus.  The task force got a lookMondayat what it would take to respond to Zika.


In a tent pitched in the parking lot of the Texas Department of State Health Services, emergency responders demonstrated a biohazard suit that could be used as protection during a Zika outbreak.


Part of the demonstration includes this description, “Heat vapors are allowed to dissipate from here but it still acts as a barrier for pathogens… .”



The head of the task force, Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt  says there could be mosquitoes already carrying the Zika virus in Texas and local health officials just don’t know it.


“Yes it is absolutely possible that local mosquito vector transmission is underway and we haven’t detected it,” he says.


Hellerstedt says that was the case in Palm Beach County, Fla.  Mosquitos there were carrying Zika before Florida officials diagnosed the country’s  first case of the virus acquired from local mosquitos.


Dr. Peter Hotez at the Baylor College of Medicine is an expert on mosquito-borne diseases. He told the task force that the only way to assure mosquitos here aren’t infecting residents with Zika is to go door to door in infested areas, and test people and mosquitoes.


“Because the current approach right now is to wait for a doctor to happen to come upon Zika case and connect the dots, and draw the blood and see that it is positive but the problem with doing that kind of active surveillance approach is very costly,” Hotez says.


Hotez says he is pushing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to provide more money to local health officials so they can do more field testing.

Texas has received an additional $6 million in federal funds this year to help detect and prevent the spread of Zika, but Hotez says it will take much more than that.  The Texas task force originally requested $500 million in federal aid.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.