September 14, 2016 --
As the number of Zika cases continue to rise around the region and with some military personnel as well, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany officials remain vigilant in their quest to mitigate the risk for outbreaks in the local community.
According to the Center for Disease Control website, the Zika virus disease is a mosquito-borne illness, so officials’ first line of attack is to control breeding of the pesky insect.
Installation emergency operations and chemical protection team as well as Naval Branch Health Clinic-Albany’s leadership team, recently, met with state and local environmental control representatives to discuss the impact of the disease and appropriate countermeasures to reduce the mosquito population.
With the Department of Defense recording roughly 50 Zika cases in Military Health System beneficiaries and the increase of reports in Georgia’s neighboring State of Florida, base officials are taking a proactive stance to protect residents in Albany-Dougherty County and surrounding communities.
Steven Dancer, installation emergency manager, MCLB Albany, gave an overview of the brief and commented on strategies used to educate residents in taking simple precautions like the “tip and toss” method to eliminate standing water in and around the home.
“This update briefing is on the current (status) of the Zika virus, (inside as well as outside the Continental Unites States),” Dancer said. “Most importantly, not just an update, but to bring in our community partners, Dougherty County Public Works and the Department of Public Health Surveillance Program personnel. This gives us a chance to meet those who support us from the outside and to keep those lines of communications going.
“We’re going to discuss mosquito control and the difference between our program and theirs,” he explained. “We’re hoping that checking their procedures against our procedures (will help us) learn something to make ours better.”
Donnell Mathis, environmental control manager, Dougherty County Public Works, provided information residents can do to be proactive in this effort.
“I've been doing this for 20 years,” Mathis said. “So, I'm here (today) to make sure that you all are as much on board with what we're doing as we are, because what we do can affect you all as well.”
Mathis recommends pouring out any standing water around the home and taking protective measures when outdoors.
“Get rid of old tires, buckets and anything that may have water,” he said. “Avoid being outside when mosquitoes are active; wear long sleeves and long pants if necessary. Prepare to put on some type of (insect repellent) when outside. That will prevent mosquitoes from taking blood meals. If (people will) do that they will be okay.”
Georgia Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Division, vector surveillance coordinator, Napolean Butler, explained his role in the fight against the Zika virus.
“My primary role right now is to do mosquito surveillance for the Southwest Georgia region in the hopes of reducing and just being abreast to any possible local Zika cases,” Butler said.
“As of now, all (the) cases in the State of Georgia are what we refer to as travel-related or imported cases,” he added. “In other words, the person got the virus when they traveled to a Zika-prone region, such as South America. As of now, we don't have any local-transmitted cases.
“If people with those travel-related cases are not vigilant and don't protect themselves from mosquito bites, it could possibly be transmitted,” Butler noted. “When we know of a travel-related case, we go to that (location) and we educate everyone in that area; of course, (we contact) the victim; we survey that entire area; we put out flyers; we even do larvae sightings and barrier treatment.
“We’re not hopeless,” he stressed. “If we just adhere to the ‘tip-and-toss’ in our own backyards; wear mosquito repellent outdoors, wear long sleeves and just be attentive (to our environment), we should be okay.”
Medical authorities have released some of the symptoms of the Zika virus, which range from a mild fever to skin rashes, muscle and joint pain as well as conjunctivitis.
For more information and updates on the Zika virus, visit the Center for Disease Control’s website at: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html.