Summer Heat:

How GovPilot Helped Local Government Meet the Challenges Presented by the Summer 2016 Zika Virus Pandemic

This summer’s Zika virus pandemic presented unique challenges to local government. GovPilot is proud to have helped leaders overcome them.

In 2015, the stories began trickling-in from Brazil. 28, then 35, then 44 babies born with the neurological disorder, microcephaly, in the country’s northeast region.

In late October, Brazil confirmed that 54 afflicted infants were born between August and October 30th. Northeast Brazil had been hit with an outbreak of the Zika virus and health experts believed that there was a connection between mothers’ exposure to the mosquito-borne illness during pregnancy and the infants’ symptoms.

By May 2016, the link between Zika and birth defects had been confirmed and the virus had spread to 48 countries, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Predictions of a Zika virus pandemic exacerbated by the anticipated summer heat and upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil dominated news coverage. Public anxiety blended with confusion as new modes of transmission were uncovered.

Zika was not the first pandemic or even the first mosquito-borne one, but it presented unprecedented challenges. The accessibility of travel and ubiquity of media meant Zika’s spread could be catalyzed, broadcasted and potentially misconstrued in a way that past pandemics could not.

Though the Zika virus had not yet made its way to the United States, the nation knew that its arrival was inevitable.Local government watched as panic swelled to a crescendo and prepared to do what it has always done in times of crisis: protect citizens.

Modern technology held the power to intensify the devastation of the Zika pandemic, but government knew that it also held the potential to lessen it. In mid-May, The New York City Department of Health shared Zika prevention tips on its official Twitter account as helicopters sprayed marshlands and other urban wetlands in four of the city’s five boroughs with larvicides. Cities from Chicago, Illinois to Calabasas, California published pages with facts regarding Zika’s transmission and prevention on their municipal website.

By mid-summer, cases of Zika had been uncovered in the US: the first were travel-related and then came reports of the virus being locally and sexually acquired. Local governments needed to intensify pandemic prevention efforts and many did so with GovPilot’s Mosquito Control software.

As Freeholder, Carmen Rodriguez, announced during a recent press conference, Camden County, New Jersey used GovPilot software to develop a “Report a Mosquito Issue in Your Town” form. Accessible through Camden County’s website, the form prompts residents to disclose details of local mosquito infestation. Upon the form’s submission, Camden County’s Mosquito Commission is sent a notification and the complainant is sent an email confirming its receipt. This is the first step in an automated workflow that guarantees residents’ mosquito-related concerns are addressed swiftly, transparently and effectively.

Camden County Freeholder, Carmen Rodriguez, announces the county’s use of GovPilot Mosquito Control software in its Zika prevention program at an August press conference.

Other clients have customized GovPilot’s geographic information system (GIS) map with Zika-related layers to more accurately view and identify trends and empower the public. For example, some use the map to display potential mosquito breeding grounds such as wooded areas, marshlands and properties with swimming pools. Other cities customize the map to display areas that have been or are scheduled to be sprayed with insecticides. GovPilot’s GIS map is integrated with Mail Merge technology for improved constituent engagement. With the drag of a cursor, government can select a wooded area or stagnant body of water and send an automated, personalized email warning of its potential to attract Zika vector mosquitoes to residents located within a certain radius. Officials and residents alike benefit from crowdsourced reporting and centralized treatment of high risk areas.For more on this and other stories, please see GovPilot’s recent white paper.

Local governments’ prevention efforts have played a huge role in limiting the spread of the Zika virus pandemic and easing the anxiety surrounding it. GovPilot is proud to develop the tracking and civic engagement tools that strengthen these critical initiatives. As demonstrated this summer at the height of the Zika pandemic, GovPilot helps local government rise to the occasion.