GREENWICH, Conn. — As officials across the U.S. prepare for more travel-associated cases of the Zika virus and the likelihood of mosquito-borne transmission, Greenwich First Selectman Peter J. Tesei has established a local Zika Virus Task Force to combat the spread at the local level.
“I believe the town, residents and commercial property owner(s) need to work together as a team to eliminate sources of standing water on their property. Once this virus gets into the mosquito population, it will be hard to control the spread. Therefore, it should be a joint effort to get rid of old tires, buckets, containers, plastic bags and other items capable of collecting water,” Tesei said. “It is through this collective effort that Zika virus will be unable to breed in the mosquito population and as a result, circulate in the community.”
Greenwich Director of Health Caroline C. Baisley will be appointed chairman of the Zika Virus Task Force, along with key members of her staff. Representatives from town agencies and organizations, including the Board of Health, Office of the First Selectman, and the Police, Fire, Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Conservation departments, as well as the Board of Education, will be asked to serve.
The mission of the Zika Virus Task Force will include developing a response plan that addresses controlling the mosquito population throughout the town by modifying and/or treating mosquito-breeding habitats. Educational material will also be distributed about Zika virus to the public.
The Zika Virus Task Force will meet sometime in June and regularly thereafter.
As of May 31, there have been 591 travel-associated Zika virus disease cases reported in the U.S. The virus is spread most commonly through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito or Aedes albopictus mosquito. According to state officials, Connecticut does not have Aedes aegypti mosquitoes; however, Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which can carry the virus, are found in southwestern Connecticut.
Unlike other mosquito-borne viruses, Zika can cause birth defects and neurological disorders in infants born to women who were pregnant when exposed to the virus. In addition, the virus can be transmitted sexually by infected men to their partners. Most Zika virus infections exhibit no symptoms. When illness does occur, it is mild and may go unnoticed. There is no vaccine, and no specific treatment for Zika virus-related illness.
The best prevention is to avoid mosquito bites, especially when traveling to area where there is Zika virus transmission. Pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant soon should postpone travel to Zika-affected areas.
The most effective way to stop the spread of Zika virus in Connecticut before it appears is to eliminate mosquito breeding sites. The Aedes albopictus mosquito can breed in any container (large or small) that collects water.
The Department of Health Division of Environmental Services will take complaints about standing water from the public and will develop a compliance program to address violations. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station will carry out its annual mosquito trapping and testing program at 91 locations, including three sites in Greenwich, throughout the state from June through October.
The CAES routinely screens for mosquito-borne viruses such as West Nile virus and will add Zika virus to its screening list.
For more information and progress of the Task Force, visit the Town’s website after June 30.