Multco Vector Control joins fight against Zika virus, Environmental Health director tells U.S. Senators

June 27, 2016

Dr. Jae Douglas discusses Zika virus along with Dr. Jay Nelson, left, and Dr. Emiolo Debess, right.
Multnomah County is aggressively collecting and testing mosquitoes to protect the public from the Zika virus, the Director of Environmental Health told Oregon’s two senators Friday.

“Surveillance is our primary tool at this time,’’ Jae Douglas told U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley at press briefing at Oregon Health & Science University’s Collaborative Life Sciences Building in Portland.

The mosquitos that carry Zika (Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus) are not yet found in Oregon. But Douglas said, the county will continue to monitor and treat as needed.

Douglas, state health officers and university researchers specializing in vaccines and infectious diseases told the senators what steps must be taken to protect the public from the virus. The doctors collectively said far more research is needed to understand the virus and stop its spread.

Dr. Aaron Caughey
Dr. Aaron Caughey, chair of the OHSU Ob-Gyn Department, discusses the risks to pregnant women and their children

Zika is an infection that has recently spread to many countries in South and Central America through the bite of an infected mosquito. People can also get Zika by having sex with an infected man or when a pregnant woman passes the virus to her fetus.

Most people who become infected become mildly ill or have no symptoms. However, if a pregnant woman is infected, the virus can cause serious birth defects including microcephaly.

No vaccine for Zika yet exists. Dr. Aaron Caughey, chair of the OHSU Ob-Gyn Department said the infection is so serious that “any pregnant women who has traveled to a Zika-affected area, or has a partner who has traveled, should be tested for the virus.”

Oregon has had eight confirmed cases of Zika, all of them linked to travel, said Dr. Richard Leman, chief medical officer for the Oregon Health AuthorityThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report a total of 820 cases have been reported nationwide through June 22. None have been traced to local mosquitoes.

U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley speak to reporters about their concern around the Zika virus.

The county’s Vector Control staff collect frequent samples of local water to track what larvae are developing. Adult mosquitoes are caught and analyzed by setting CO2 (dry ice) traps.

Residents should be particularly vigilant since our recent weather pattern of warm temperatures followed by rain, it is especially good breeding conditions,’’ Douglas said.

To read more about Zika:

Zika virus and Multnomah County

Ten things Oregonians should know about Zika.

CDC:Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment