ASTHO Attends 2018 National Association for Vector-Borne Disease Control Officials Meeting

June 13, 2018|10:08 a.m.| Health Security

2018 National Association for Vector-Borne Disease Control Officials MeetingOn May 9-10, members of ASTHO’s environmental health, research and evaluation, and state health policy teams attended a meeting hosted by the National Association for Vector-Borne Disease Control Officials (NAVCO) in Fort Collins, CO. This year’s conference was NAVCO’s first in-person gathering in over a decade. As one of ASTHO’s affiliate partners, NAVCO develops and maintains close working relationships with state, territorial, federal, and other governmental agencies engaged in the field of public health vector control, with a focus on vectorborne diseases.

Experts from CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases delivered presentations, as did several state and territorial vectorborne disease control officials. Representatives from 34 states and three territories attended the meeting, showcasing a wide range of perspectives—from Maine to Palau. Elizabeth Dykstra, immediate past president of NAVCO, moderated the meeting sessions with assistance from ASTHO staff and CDC. “Being able to meet in person gave NAVCO members the opportunity to get to know each other better and network with counterparts and CDC vectorborne disease staff,” says Dykstra. “We were able to share and expand our understanding of the current issues vector control officials are facing each day.”

Lyle Petersen, director of CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, gave the keynote address, “A New Paradigm for Combating Vector-Borne Diseases,” and discussed upcoming challenges regarding vectorborne diseases and translating science into action. “CDC is proud to support state efforts to prevent and control vectorborne disease. Our support for NAVCO’s annual meeting demonstrates CDC’s commitment to the foundation of scientific data and research needed to fight infectious disease threats to public health,” says Petersen. 

Acknowledging the challenges many state and territorial vector control programs face associated with the fluctuations in federal funding for vector control, Petersen called for a paradigm shift: Tick and mosquito control efforts should be combined into a more coordinated program, instead of the existing practice of separating tick and mosquito control efforts. 

In addition to presentations on Lyme disease, Powassan virus, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, other sessions focused on surveillance updates for various vectorborne diseases, such as plague, Yellow Fever, and the Zika virus. Speakers also presented information about insecticide resistance testing and emerging technologies for vector control, such as MosquitoMate.

On the second day of the meeting, state and territorial vectorborne disease control officials participated in regional breakout sessions to compare and discuss their vector control challenges with their peers. The regional groups identified top priorities, discussed how their respective health department vector disease branches were structured, and focused on planning for future activities. These breakouts allowed multiple jurisdictions to share success stories, as well as network and build partnerships with other agencies. The regional nature of the distribution of tick and mosquito vectors made this session particularly valuable.

For example, the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions share similar challenges associated with tick (lxodes scapularis) and mosquito (Aedes albopictus) vectors. In addition, Guam and Palau reported challenges different from their professional colleagues in the West Coast states, and the discussion that resulted from this group was very helpful and insightful. “Building a network of subject matter experts throughout the country becomes invaluable when outbreaks occur or when there’s a need to consult with members on a particular issue,” adds Dykstra.

As the meeting concluded, ASTHO staff provided several organizational updates, highlighting ASTHO’s vector control survey results, a mosquito control statutory analysis, and forthcoming revisions to mosquito control documents. ASTHO thanked NAVCO members for their active participation in ASTHO’s Vector Control Workgroup and for offering input and guidance on these activities.

As states and territories face increasing vectorborne disease threats, ASTHO stands ready to help health departments strengthen their vector control programs nationwide. The 2018 NAVCO Meeting provided a forum for vectorborne disease control officials to learn from each other and prepare for the upcoming tick and mosquito season.