Mayor's Office Press Release

Mayor Turner Seeks State Funds to Fight Zika

June 9, 2016 -- With members of the local legislative delegation at his side and an illegal tire dump as the backdrop, Mayor Sylvester Turner called on the state of Texas to declare the Zika virus a public health emergency and dedicate funds toward local efforts to fight it.

“Local governments are in a position to do the door-to-door, neighborhood-by-neighborhood hard work necessary to mitigate Zika,” said Mayor Turner.  “There is a critical need for help in paying for this massive effort. We have programs already underway and would welcome state help in funding them.  Let’s work together to eradicate this threat.”

Mayor Turner is requesting assistance from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Solid Waste Disposal Fees Account, which currently has a balance of $130 million. Under changes made by the legislature in 2007, the fund may be used for an immediate response to or remediation of an emergency that involves solid waste.

Since February, the City of Houston Solid Waste Department has been cleaning up illegal dump sites to help reduce mosquito breeding sites and combat the spread of Zika.  They have already hauled 3,000 tons of debris and 19,000 tires away.  The effort is expected to cost $3.6 million this year.  With additional funding, the City of Houston could purchase new equipment to increase collection frequency beyond the weekends, develop and distribute educational materials informing residents of proper and free disposal options and establish three additional heavy trash drop-off locations.

Zika is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is found in Houston and southeast Texas.  Infection during pregnancy causes microcephaly and other brain malformations in some babies.  Infections in adults have been linked to Guillain–BarrĂ© syndrome.

The city has launched a multi-pronged approach to fighting the Zika virus.  In addition to the neighborhood trash sweeps, there are also educational announcements at the airports, on public transit, in city water bills and on local TV.  The health department is going door-to-door to distribute insect repellent in underserved neighborhoods, and the City’s regional public health laboratory is supporting local hospitals and clinics with Zika infection testing.

Now that mosquito season is here, residents need to be vigilant about protecting themselves from being bitten.  Follow the three Ds of mosquito defense: drain, dress, DEET!  Drain standing water on your property and keep hedges trimmed.  Dress in long pants and long sleeves, keep windows and screens repaired and use air conditioning.  When outside, spray exposed skin with mosquito repellant containing DEET, reapply as necessary and use netting to protect babies in strollers or car seats.