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DCHHS to hosts first Zika Virus Tabletop Exercise

Special to The Dallas Examiner | 3/25/2016, 2:16 p.m.
Dallas County Health and Human Services hosted a Zika virus outbreak tabletop exercise for Dallas County municipalities, emergency managers and ...
DCHHS Director Zachary Thompson and Medical Director/Health Authority Dr. Christopher Perkins welcome attendees. DCHHS

Dallas County Health and Human Services hosted a Zika virus outbreak tabletop exercise for Dallas County municipalities, emergency managers and other response partners on Wednesday. DCHHS officials demonstrated and tested several capabilities necessary to respond to an outbreak. Attendees were able to participate to ensure their city’s preparedness.

“It is likely Dallas County will receive more confirmed cases of Zika virus as we enter into mosquito season,” said Zachary Thompson, DCHHS director. “This exercise gave us the opportunity to provide our response partners with the information and resources they need in a real-life scenario.”

Exercise objectives included information and open discussion on investigating an outbreak, communication procedures, specimen collection and testing, and mosquito control measures.

This event was another component of DCHHS’ Zika virus campaign, which began Jan. 27, before the first Zika virus case was confirmed in Dallas County. Since then, the campaign has spread widely, including sharing information with other counties and door hanger distribution in high-risk zip codes.

To date, Dallas County confirmed four cases of Zika virus. Three were imported and one was sexually transmitted from an imported case. While there are currently no reports of Zika virus being locally transmitted by mosquitoes in Dallas County, imported cases make local spread by mosquitoes possible because the mosquitoes that can transmit the virus are found in Dallas County.

“We continue to push education to citizens informing them how to reduce the chance of spreading Zika virus into the local mosquito population,” Thompson said. “But it still remains a very real possibility that local transmission could happen at any time.”

Dr. Christopher Perkins, DCHHS medical director/health authority, said any time DCHHS can work cooperatively with response partners and connect directly with citizens proves better in preventing public health outbreaks.

“Everyone plays a role in protecting public health,” Perkins said. “That’s why it is important for everyone to be informed so we’re all on the same page.”

DCHHS will continue its campaign throughout mosquito season, which begins in May.