Spring is Coming: Preparing For Zika’s Return with Vector Surveillance

by Christine Hockett, Senior Epidemiologist, Conduent Public Health Solutions

You may not have heard much about Zika lately, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. While mosquito activity declines to almost nothing during the winter, the same warm weather that lifts our spirits in the spring will increase mosquito activity, and with it, the viruses those mosquitos carry.

The good news is, now is the perfect time to put measures into place to prepare for increased Zika-related activity, whether that takes the form of tracking the mosquitoes themselves or tracking the disease patterns of Zika in the human population.

The CDC is making both financial and technical assistance available to states in areas at high risk for Zika, including Florida, Texas, Hawaii, Mississippi, and beyond. This assistance can help states in high-risk zones implement or augment vector surveillance. Even if your jurisdiction isn’t in a high-risk zone, vector surveillance can provide a useful additional dimension to your efforts to track, predict and control Zika in your area if your environment and conditions allow the Zika-carrying mosquitoes Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti to flourish. Per the CDC, Zika virus infections have been reported in 48 states and Washington, DC, as well as U.S. territories.

Vector surveillance focuses on the mosquito activity within the jurisdiction (as opposed to disease surveillance, which focuses on the human factor). State and local jurisdictions have vastly different levels of Integrated Mosquito Management (IMM), ranging from no methodology to intermittent attempts at management to a comprehensive and well-managed program.

The Vector Surveillance Module in Maven was designed to meet the needs of a warm-weather state at high risk for Zika as well as other mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever and yellow fever. Our Vector Surveillance solution allows them to track:

  • Mosquito control/vector control efforts like neighborhood spraying to eliminate existing mosquitoes
  • Surveillance components such as location of mosquito traps and the associated data:
    • Larvae counts in specific geographic areas
    • Infection rates per trap for comparison and prediction of infection rate in that area/population
  • On-site inspection needs and results for residents in high-risk neighborhoods: does the house have standing water or other conditions that increase the likelihood mosquitoes will breed? Once conditions are discovered, the jurisdiction can inform citizens how they can reduce or eliminate these conditions to help reduce risk of mosquitoes and ultimately the risk of getting a mosquito-borne disease, including Zika.

Jurisdictions interested in both vector surveillance and disease surveillance can use Maven to handle both efforts, coordinating everything in a single system. Linking vector data, such as infection rates in mosquitoes, with the human disease patterns provides better actionable data that can ultimately improve your tracking and containment efforts.

The bad news is that Zika isn’t gone forever. The good news is that there are more and more tools available to help your jurisdiction track and fight it.

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