Public Health Emergency Preparedness

Mission Statement: To protect and prepare our community by developing the capacity of the local public health system to respond to a bio-terrorist event, infectious disease outbreak, and any other public health emergency, and to sustain a continuous preparedness program.

What is the Public Health Preparedness Team?

The Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Preparedness (PHP) Program is a program funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to perform disease surveillance and public health emergency preparedness activities in support of the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Cooperative Agreement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes building partnerships and collaborating within, between, and among public health and medical care partners, emergency management, law enforcement, school districts, and other partners in preparedness activities. Partnership opportunities may include, but are not limited to, plan development or updating, exercises, training, and responding to incidents, events, or emergencies.


Resources

The following table describes some of the resources available to healthcare providers and the general public can obtain more information regarding the Zika Virus:

Zika virus is primarily spread to people through mosquito bites. The virus can be spread from mother to child. Spread of the virus through blood transfusion and sexual contact has also been reported.

Most people infected with the virus have mild or no symptoms. For those who do develop symptoms, illness is generally mild and typically lasts a few days to a week. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes).

.Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon and fatalities are rare. An increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome was noted during an outbreak of Zika virus in French Polynesia in 2014. An increase in microcephaly was noted during an outbreak of Zika virus in Brazil in 2015.

Transmission & Risks

Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). These are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya.

  • These mosquitoes typically lay eggs in and near standing water in things like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases. They prefer to bite people, and live indoors and outdoors near people.
  • Mosquitoes that spread chikungunya, dengue, and Zika are aggressive daytime biters, but they can also bite at night.
  • Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.

– From Mother to Child

  • A pregnant woman can pass Zika virus to her fetus during pregnancy. Zika is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. We are studying the full range of other potential health problems that Zika virus infection during pregnancy may cause.
  • A pregnant woman already infected with Zika virus can pass the virus to her fetus during the pregnancy or around the time of birth.
  • To date, there are no reports of infants getting Zika virus through breastfeeding. Because of the benefits of breastfeeding, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed even in areas where Zika virus is found.

– Through Sexual Contact

  • Zika virus can be spread by a man to his sex partners.
  • In known cases of sexual transmission, the men developed Zika virus symptoms. From these cases, we know the virus can be spread when the man has symptoms, before symptoms start and after symptoms resolve.
  • In one case, the virus was spread a few days before symptoms developed.
  • The virus is present in semen longer than in blood.

– Traveling To Areas with Zika

Most Texas cases of Zika are related to travel. People were infected while visiting areas where Zika is being spread and then diagnosed after returning home. To help prevent infection, DSHS recommends:

During your trip –
Travelers to areas affected by Zika should avoid mosquito exposure.

  • Use EPA-approved insect repellent for 21 days after you return to the United States. When used as directed, these insect repellents - including those that contain DEET - are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Wear pants and long-sleeve shirts.
  • Use screens or close windows and doors at hotel rooms or places you're staying.
  • Take precautions against sexual transmission.
  • Consider abstaining from sex or use condoms correctly.

After your trip –
All travelers returning to Texas from areas affected by Zika should avoid mosquito bites for 21 days following their return or following the onset of illness.

  • Call your doctor if you have concerns.
  • Use EPA-approved insect repellent for 21 days after you return to the United States. When used as directed, these insect repellents - including those that contain DEET - are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Take precautions against sexual transmission for at least eight weeks.
  • Consider abstaining from sex or use condoms correctly.

Zika Response Plan

As a part of the prevention and mitigation efforts, the Texas Department of State Health Services has produced the Zika Virus Preparedness and Response Plan. The Zika Virus Preparedness and Response Plan describes what actions DSHS will take to successfully respond to Zika virus. The Zika Virus Preparedness and Response Plan is aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) phased approach.

Furthermore, the Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services Hospital Preparedness Program Trauma Service Area V (CCDHS HPP TSA-V) and all members of the Rio Grande Valley Healthcare Preparedness Coalition (RGV-HPC) will adhere to all protocols and procedures outlined in the Zika Virus Preparedness and Response Plan.

Healthcare Preparedness Program Trauma Service Area V in Action

As part of the Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Response Program preparedness efforts, staff has been in constant alert regarding the latest developments of the Zika Virus outbreak currently been experienced in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. As such, PHRP Staff has presented the Texas Department of State Health Services Zika Virus Preparedness and Response Plan to all members of the Rio Grande Valley Healthcare Preparedness Coalition (RGV-HPC).

Cameron County
Department of Health & Human Services
1390 W. Expressway 83
San Benito, Texas. 78586
Phone (956) 247-3625
24/7Hotline (866) 326-3397

Program Activities

Some of the activities the program performs include:

  • Preparedness planning and readiness assessment;
  • Surveillance and epidemiological investigations;
  • Communicating health risks and health information dissemination; and
  • Education and training.

What is Bio-terrorism?

It is the overt or covert dispensing of disease pathogens as biological weapons for the expressed purpose of causing harm. Some examples of disease pathogens that are dispensed are: Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) and Smallpox (Orthopoxvirus).

What is the Strategic National Stockpile?

The CDC's Strategic National Stockpile is a national repository of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical materiel/supplies that are available to protect the American public if there is a public health emergency (terrorist attack, flu outbreak, natural or technological disasters) severe enough to cause local supplies to run out. Once Federal and local authorities agree that the SNS is needed, medicines will be delivered to any state in the U.S. within 12 hours. Each state has plans to receive and distribute SNS medicine and medical supplies to local communities as quickly as possible.

Public Health Surveillance & Epidemiological Investigations

Epidemiology is the study of health in populations to understand the causes and patterns of health and illness. The Epidemiology Section of the PHP Program conducts surveillance (the collection and analysis of data) and performs epidemiological investigations to follow disease trends, assess risk of exposure, discover the common source of illness, and put effective preventive measures into place.

Reporting Notifiable Conditions

Health care providers, hospitals, laboratories, schools, and others are required to report a person or persons who are suspected of having a notifiable condition to the local health authority or the department and provide all information known to them concerning the illness and physical condition of such person or persons.

Most notifiable conditions (see list below), or other illnesses that may be of public health significance, should be reported directly to the Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services using the CCEPI-1 form below.

Paper reporting forms can be obtained by calling the Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Preparedness Program at 1-866-326-3397.

Additional Contact Info

Health & Human Services Administrative Office
1390 W. Expressway 83
San Benito, Texas 78586
1-866-326-3397 | Fax: 1-866-326-3316 | After Hours & 24/7 Hotline1-866-326-3397

Monday – Friday
8 a.m. – 5 p.m.