POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County officials are making sure they are prepared for the possibility of a locally transmitted case of Zika. This week the Department of Health headed a meeting with local agencies to discuss how to handle such a situation.
Key stakeholders helped craft the plan, including Polk County Mosquito Control, Polk County Emergency Management, Polk County commissioners, city fire departments, law enforcement agencies, parks and recreation agencies, local hospitals, walk-in clinics and LEGOLAND.
Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Both A. aegypti and A. albopictus mosquitoes can transmit the virus). Both species are found in Florida.
Polk County Mosquito Control has already begun putting out new traps to capture these mosquitoes so they can sample and quantify their populations.
“It’s very important for us to know if they’re here, how much, how large the population is, because those are the factors for us getting local transmission. They are here all the time. it just takes one person to get bitten by the mosquito. If that mosquito happens to survive and bites another person, then we have our first local transmission,” Mosquito Control Director Carl Boohene said.
No cases of local transmission have been reported in the United States, but health officials believe it is a risk. Zika is widespread in the Caribbean, Latin America, the Pacific islands and in parts of South America and Africa.
Six travel-related Zika cases have been reported in Polk County. It can also be transmitted through sex.
Polk County Mosquito Control is one of the agencies with a plan in place, which must be put into motion within 24 hours of a suspected case being reported.
According to Boheene, staff will set up traps to capture A. aegypti and/or A. albopictus mosquitoes in an affected neighborhood. Those mosquitoes will be sent to a state lab to test for the virus.
Staff will go house to house in the neighborhood to clear any containers of standing water, as mosquitoes breed in these areas. Officials will also inform people about the problem.
Should a person become infected, mosquito control will spray his or her neighborhood.