HARLINGEN — Warnings about the arrival of Zika virus appear to be taking hold in the Rio Grande Valley.
Juan Leal, code enforcement manager for the city, told city commissioners this week, 221 used tires were turned in during the community-wide Trash-Off Day on June 11.
Normally, he said, about 100 tires are brought to the city for disposal at these events.
“The rainy season started a little early this year, and we didn’t want a big mosquito problem and citizens didn’t know what to do with the tires, and this was a way to dispose of them,” Leal said yesterday.
While there have been no known Rio Grande Valley cases of Zika — the only Texas cases so far have involved travel to Zika virus areas — officials have been warning residents that Zika occurring here is a matter of when, not if.
“The City of Harlingen has taken a very proactive approach in educating the community on mosquito prevention and potential mosquito-borne illnesses,” Melissa Landin, public information officer for the city, said in an email yesterday.
Landin said city officials have sent out press releases, conducted media outreach, placed ads and created public service announcements for social media warning of the risk mosquitoes pose.
“The city also continues to spray for mosquitoes and the code enforcement team has done an excellent job of targeting trash that attracts mosquitoes,” Landing said.
Zika virus, along with dengue and West Nile virus, is transmitted primarily through the bites of two mosquito species, Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti.
Both are small, aggressive mosquitoes that are black with white-striped legs. They are active during daylight hours.
And both species like used tires filled with rainwater to lay eggs and to serve as nurseries for their offspring.
Zika causes fever, rash, muscle and joint aches and red eyes (conjunctivitis). While symptoms are usually mild, Zika has been linked to a birth defect called microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with the virus while pregnant, the Texas Department of State Health Services says.
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WHEN: Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon
WHEN: Sixth Street to 13th Street from East Van Buren to East Jefferson
WHAT: City trucks will make three loops, allowing residents to bring their trash to the street
– Apply EPA-registered insect repellents
– Wear pants and long-sleeved shirts that cover exposed skin
– Use screens or close windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your home
– Remove standing water in and around your home
– Cover trash cans or containers where water can collect