Houston Health Department’s response to the threat of Zika virus

Eric Bakota, Kirsten Short, Amanda Eckert

Abstract


ObjectiveThis session will explore the role of the Houston Health Department(HHD) in the City of Houston’s response to the threat of Zika. Thepanelists will provide perspective from the roles of Bureau Chief,informatician, and epidemiologist and provide insight into lessonslearned and strategic successes.IntroductionZika virus spread quickly through South and Central America in2015. The City of Houston saw its first travel-related Zika cases inDecember of 2015. On January 29th, the City held the first planningmeeting with regional partners from healthcare, blood banks,petrochemical companies, mosquito control, and others. Additionallythe City activated Incident Command Structure (ICS) and designatedthe Public Health Authority as the Incident Commander.Initial steps taken by HHD included expanding the capabilityand capacity of the public health laboratory to test for Zika virus;expand surveillance efforts; created an educational campaign aroundthe “3Ds” of Zika defense (Drain, Dress, DEET) which were thendisseminated through several means, including a mass mailing withwater bills; and provided DEET to mothers through the WIC program.The Houston Health Department took the lead in authoringthe City’s Zika Action Plan. In this 3 goals and 6 strategies wereidentified. Goals included 1) Keep Houstonians and visitors aware ofthe threat of Zika; 2) minimize the spread of the virus; and 3) protectpregnant women from the virus. The 6 strategies employed were toA) develop preparedness plans; B) implement ICS within the City;C) ensure situational awareness through surveillance; D) Increasecommunity awareness; E) reduce opportunities for Zika mosquitobreeding grounds; and F) provide direct intervention to reduce thethreat of Zika.HHD was responsible for many of the action items within theplan. We conducted several community outreach events, where wedisseminated educational materials, t-shirts, DEET, and other give-aways. These events allowed frequent engagement with the public forbidrectional communication on how to approach the threat.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/ojphi.v9i1.7686



Online Journal of Public Health Informatics * ISSN 1947-2579 * http://ojphi.org