Is there a record for the number of times someone can say the word
DEET in a year? If so, the record keeper should have spent the past
seven months by my side.
Make no mistake, 2016 has been a record-breaking year. The new, on-going threat of Zika virus entering the United States, along with West Nile Virus, kept us very busy. Lucky for me, our mosquito season ended on November 16. Through it all, Tarrant County Public Health (TCPH) staff performed admirably.
As of November 12, a total of 5,279 mosquito samples had been
submitted to TCPH’s North Texas Regional Laboratory (NTRL). The
department tested 5,006 the previous year. That’s an increased
workload, for which I am proud of our laboratory team for
accomplishing -- especially considering we tested even fewer in 2014
(4,794 mosquito samples). To top that off, the threat of Zika Virus
meant that our NTRL had to suddenly implement diagnostic Zika Virus
testing for human serum specimens. Thankfully, the testing has
confirmed only 26 imported cases so far this year in Tarrant County,
and has helped TCPH keep the disease from transmitting locally.
Our success in the lab would not have been possible without the support of our partner cities. Working together we strategically placed 6,200 mosquito traps throughout Tarrant County by early November. That’s a tremendous amount of coordination and hustle by a small number of entomologists, vector control specialists and environmental workers. Their hard work resulted in 529 positive mosquito pools (NTRL and non-NTRL tested). No one wants to see positive pools, but they do tell us where to focus our efforts to help safeguard our residents.
All of that hard field work helps our team of compassionate epidemiologists. They are the disease investigators who work closely with the patients affected by the diseases we fight to prevent. They spend countless months investigating cases of West Nile Virus, Zika Virus and Chikungunya. They help doctors better diagnose patients and show response teams where to focus their prevention and education efforts.
Lastly, our leadership team debuted a new marketing campaign this season – Be Mosquito Free. You might have seen it in a Sunday newspaper, heard it on the radio or come cross it on social media. One unique aspect of this campaign is how it lacks any TCPH branding. We invested in a logo that could be shared by all of our partners. Mosquitoes don’t stop at city limit signs! It’s incumbent for all of us to work together to Be Mosquito Free. This new logo is a gift to our partners who need help raising awareness in their communities.
With the holidays upon us, I want to express gratitude for all of the
support, encouragement and goodwill TCPH received from our partners
and fellow residents. It’s my job to now assess the past season and
prepare for next year.
If I might offer you a gift idea for this upcoming holiday season – I hear a can of DEET will fit nicely in a gift bag. It’s never too early to prepare for the 2017 mosquito season.
Have a healthy and happy holiday season!
Veerinder (Vinny) Taneja
Tarrant County Public Health Director
County Telephone Operator 817-884-1111
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