Fulton County health officials told the Board of Commissioners that they have an aggressive plan to combat the dangerous Zika virus. The illness is transmitted to humans primarily by the bite of infected mosquitoes and has been linked to severe birth defects.
“We are taking this seriously,” said Chairman John Eaves. “All hands are on deck when it comes to our efforts to stay on top of this epidemic.”
Since May 2015, the virus has spread from Brazil to 33 countries in the Americas and 42 worldwide. Here in Georgia, 13 travel-related cases have been reported, six of those in Fulton County.
Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Fulton County Health Director, told the Commission that only one in five people infected with Zika will develop any symptoms and most are unaware they have the virus. Symptoms are typically mild such as rashes, minor aches and pains, fever and red eyes.
Toomey noted the county is collecting data from 12,000 mosquito traps placed across the county. Bugs caught in the traps are tested to determine if they are carrying the disease. Teams then place flyers on homes in areas where Zika-infected mosquitoes have been found.
The county will begin spraying in mid-May and is placing larvacide in areas of concern. A widespread public education campaign has also been launched. Officials are urging residents to remove standing water from plant pots and tires, wear protective clothing and use mosquito repellent with DEET.
“We’ve learned some valuable lessons about communicating and collaborating from previous outbreaks of the West Nile and Ebola viruses,” said Eaves. “We are standing guard against this disease. We will continue to ensure that residents of Fulton County are informed of ways to stay safe. Education and prevention are key.”