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Features from the Field: Brownsville

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From Source of Information to Source Reduction: Brownsville’s Proactive Steps for Zika Prevention

Located at the southernmost tip of Texas on the northern bank of the Rio Grande, Brownsville, TX, serves as an example of community collaboration in the fight against Zika. Here, public health personnel work diligently to prevent the spread of Zika virus through community education, provider outreach, and coordination across programs.

Features from the Field Brownsville

Henry Presas at a “Healthy Seniors, Healthy Communities” event to share Zika prevention

Building Community Partnerships

Henry Presas, a field assignee placed through the CDC Zika Local Health Department Initiative, is educating his community through events such as the “Healthy Seniors, Health Communities” day. On that day, Presas talked with members of the senior and assisted living community on behalf of the City of Brownsville – Public Health (COB-PH) to discuss the risks of Zika for themselves and their family members. “I’ve had many people tell me they called their grandchildren to make sure they know about Zika,” says Presas. Through his support and visibility within the Brownsville community, he is known as “the Zika Guy” by his neighbors, peers, and providers. “Many clinicians are grateful to learn that there is a local resource that can share the latest Zika information from CDC,” Presas says. A dedicated resource focusing on Zika allows COB-PH to be responsive to the needs and concerns of clinical staff and the community.

Presas is also helping COB-PH forge new relationships with organizations throughout the community. The collaboration with the Housing Authority of the City of Brownsville is one example of how COB-PH is raising awareness of Zika in lowincome communities. This partnership helps COB-PH reach more than 3,500 residents at risk for Zika infection, including immigrant communities and indigent populations.

Using Data to Identify High-Risk Areas

COB-PH places mosquito traps across the city to gather data. Presas helps the health department use this information to assess – and potentially predict—areas of risk. Presas introduced the idea of using geographic information systems (GIS) and existing data to develop “heat maps” to offer a visual representation of areas with high concentrations of mosquitoes. This information helps the health department identify neighborhoods at risk for Zika infection and allows COB-PH to target provider and community outreach efforts. These data have the potential over time to assist the health department in predicting where the virus might spread.

Reducing Mosquitoes at Their Source

To curb the number of mosquitoes capable of spreading Zika, Brownsville hosted a citywide event to remove a leading source of mosquitoes: scrap tires. By removing these sources of standing water, COB-PH is reducing the number of places mosquitoes can lay eggs, which helps protect its residents from possible Zika infection. Presas participated in the inaugural Tire Collection Day in Brownsville. The event was held on July 8, 2017, and was coordinated by several municipal agencies, including those focused on public health, public relations, public works, police, parks and recreation, and emergency management. Local residents disposed of used and unwanted tires at four different collection sites throughout Brownsville, free of charge. Brownsville city staff collected 726 tires in less than four hours that day. COB-PH plans to continue these Zikafocused tire collection events and hopes to coordinate with similar events across the state. “Henry has been a great resource for us,” says Arturo Rodriguez, Director of Public Health and Wellness in Brownsville. “Brownsville is being proactive, and we’re seen as being proactive, and the community is noticing.” Presas’ outreach and education activities extend far and wide in this community. His creative use of data, establishment of new partnerships, and recognition as a trusted source of information are helping to protect mothers and babies from Zika.

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