Broward Being Proactive To Prevent Return of Zika

During the outbreak of Zika across South Florida, Broward County managed to avoid more than just a single locally-acquired case of the virus. Armed with the knowledge gained since last summer and new resources at their disposal, county officials are hoping that number is even lower in this year.

In the same week that new local cases of Zika are reported in Texas, Broward mosquito control crews are cross-training more highway and bridge personnel to spray larvicide from county-owned trucks, mixers and turbines instead of using outside contractors to handle the work.

"Right now, it's about local vector control," said Anh Ton, Director of the Broward Highway and Bridge Maintenance Division, which handles mosquito control for the county. "Unlike last year when Zika was imported from other countries, Zika is in the U.S. right now in various parts of the county."

That includes South Florida, which had more than 250 locally-acquired cases in Miami-Dade last year, forcing travel advisories to be issued until clusters in Wynwood, South Beach and the Little River neighborhood could be cleared. Broward had 190 travel-related cases confirmed since February of 2016 but only one Zika patient was determined to have acquired the virus within the county.

Many of the procedures used last year were done in reaction to the spread of the virus, including NALED spraying over Miami Beach which proved to be a very controversial issue for residents in the area. Hundreds of detractors bombarded the City Commission chambers to express their disapproval and fears of adverse effects from the aerial insecticide, though there have not been any documented local patients reporting illness from exposure to the spraying.

Broward's bug battlers want to make sure they get a jump on lowering the mosquito population before any such drastic measures need to be taken there.

"This type of mosquito is very, very hard to get when they're in their adult phase," Ton said of the aedes aegyptai, the only species found in South Florida which is known to carry the virus. "The peak time is when the wet season starts because these mosquitoes are around our area but they need water and organic material to breed."

The department will appeal to the Board of County Commissioners to allocate the funding needed to hire a dozen more mosquito inspectors. In the meantime, surveillance traps have been set up around Broward to gauge where the mosquitoes are concentrated. That will help officials plot the routes trucks will follow for the first round overnight larvicide spraying which is set to begin in May.

During that time and continuing into the summer, the county will expand its public awareness campaign for residents and visitors plus provide free larvicide to pregnant women, low-income families and others deemed the most at-risk to be bitten by the bugs known to transmit Zika.

Mosquito control teams will also work with Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Port Everglades and other area businesses to make sure they are eliminating the potential breeding sites where the mosquito larvae can eventually hatch and cause more problems later.

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