MEDICAL: DISEASES: ZIKA VIRUS :
UNITED STATES: CITIES: HOUSTON, TEXAS:
Zika Virus Hotspot: Houston’s Two Cities
Zika Virus Hotspot: Houston’s Two Cities
July 15 2016, 9:56 AM ET
by MAGGIE FOX
A shorter URL for the above link:
HOUSTON It doesn’t take long to find a pile of old tires in this city’s Fifth Ward.
“The city has cleaned up a lot of it, but people dump it again pretty quickly,” Dr. Peter Hotez mutters as he offers a tour.
It only takes 15 minutes to drive from Houston’s glittering medical center home to the soaring pink granite walls of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to the Fifth Ward. But the voyage takes you straight from the First World into the Zika zone.
Manicured lawns, palm trees and wide streets define many of the neighborhoods of Houston. But in the Fifth Ward, wood frame houses sit askew on shallow pilings. Ancient window-mounted air conditioners strain to counter the 100 degree heat and 71 percent humidity.
Dogs snarl from behind sagging chain-link fences and trash is piled everywhere. It’s one of the places Hotez describes when he tells anyone who will listen that the same third-world conditions that helped Zika spread across swathes of Brazil exist in the United States, too.
Cesar Villalta and his daughter Valeria look helplessly at a pile of tires on a paved, empty lot just outside their fence.
“Someone tore down that building next door and the next day that pile of tires was there,” Villalta, 47, said.
He’s aware of the risks. The curved structure of the tires make perfect little bowls for water to collect – just the kind of place that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes like to lay their eggs.
“We are worried. We know about mosquitoes,” adds Villalta, who works moving cars from one dealership to another. “I know that mosquitoes can live in tires. I am from El Salvador and we know they spread that way there.
City and county officials say it’s almost impossible to keep up with the trash dumpers. “We’ll tear down a house after a flood, and we’ll mow the lot. The next day, someone will have dumped a load of trash there,” said a staffer at the Harris County Flood Control District, who asked not to give her name.
In a county that covers nearly 1,800 square miles, larger than the state of Rhode Island and home to Houston and two dozen suburbs, it’s hard to keep up. And it’s just easier for people to find a place to dump their garbage than hassle with the ever-worsening traffic to get it to a legal landfill.
Cleaning up the mess is just one of the many projects the county and the cities inside its borders want help with. But Congress went home for a seven-week break Friday without dealing with legislation to help state and local governments, as well as federal agencies, deal with the overwhelming job of fighting mosquitoes.
Houston and Harris County are organized and well-funded. Hotez worries about the poorer counties in the Rio Grande valley of Texas and along Louisiana’s coast. They may have little more than the occasional pesticide sprayer. “It just might be Chuck in the truck doing it locally. This is why we need the federal funds,” Hotez said.”It is incredibly important for Congress as well as the state health department and local health departments to deal with this,” said Katy Caldwell, the CEO of Legacy Community Health, a non-profit health clinic network that’s bracing to deal with Zika’s destructive aftermath.
“The conditions are perfect in Houston to have some form of Zika epidemic. Houston is a perfect place for Zika to take hold and reach a crisis point.”
The complete article may be read at the URL above.
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