Texas A&M launches new Zika-fighting app

How Texas A&M is adding a tool to the mosquito control arsenal, encouraging communities to clean up their yards to prevent standing water
October 28, 2016

As the Zika virus spreads locally in the continental United States, communities across the country have started thinking about mosquito control measures. The Aedes mosquito that transmits the virus can breed in containers of standing water as small as a bottle cap, and the eggs can survive even without water for months. Still, the egg and larval stage is the best time to control the insect because the adult mosquito tends to be very resistant to traditional pesticides.

Jennifer A. Horney, PhD, MPH, CPH, associate professor in the Texas A&M School of Public Health, and Daniel W. Goldberg, PhD, assistant professor of geography in the Texas A&M College of Geosciences and of computer science and engineering in the college of engineering, have created a type of mobile health technology to fight the mosquitos at their source: standing water.

“With our new app, community members—citizen scientists so to speak—can do surveys and note the prevalence and locations of potential mosquito breeding grounds,” Horney said. “This data will then all be mapped online, and health departments can use that information to prioritize areas for mosquito control measures.”

People can record the number of different types of containers—old tires, buckets, bird baths, clogged gutters—that could harbor Zika-carrying mosquito eggs, along with the address of the property. The app then automatically adds the location to a website for local health officials to review.

The app is available to download for iOS and Android devices.

“We work with a number of people involved in community engagement, including many students, the Green Ambassadors in Houston, for example, who we’re going to train how to use the app,” Horney said. “The health departments get some free data, without having to use their own very limited staff resources, and it’s a great learning experience for the students as well.” The students will learn about sampling, data collection, data analysis and more.

“Effectively combating the spread of Zika will require contributions from many stakeholder groups,” Goldberg said. “With the release of this app, members of the community will be empowered to help monitor and control the risk of Zika in their own neighborhoods.”

— Christina Sumners

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