Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has proclaimed the week of April 24th through April 30th as Maryland Zika Awareness Week. Local health departments statewide will join the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as part of Maryland’s effort to raise awareness about the virus and its prevention.
Throughout this week, local health departments will schedule activities in their respective communities. Harford County Health Officer, Susan Kelly indicates, “Our initiatives will be focused on helping our residents eliminate places and opportunities around their home for mosquitoes to breed and educating health care providers and the public about the risks of Zika.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that, because transmission has chiefly occurred through the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, preventing mosquito bites is the best way to avoid infection. The CDC also has confirmed that people who have traveled to areas where the virus is actively transmitted (the Caribbean, Central American and South American countries) should abstain from unprotected sexual activity, especially if their partner is a woman who is pregnant or who could become pregnant. For more information on prevention steps, visit the CDC at http://goo.gl/mzPHVy.
Maryland has had nine confirmed cases of Zika virus infection. None have involved local transmission. All have been related to travel from areas of ongoing transmission.
During this week, Harford County Health Department (HCHD) will brief its staff about Zika and ways to minimize their risk for the mosquito-borne virus.
The Harford County Health Department will be informing the public about Zika by using its website (that also will link to DHMH’s Zika website), social media, media releases, blast-fax and other direct communications with local health care providers, government agencies and other community organizations. The department will promote Zika awareness through its own clinical sites and programs, and through collaboration with Healthy Harford and other community partners. Zika Prevention Kits will also be distributed through health care providers.
In addition, HCHD developed a You Tube video that educates and encourages local residents and business owners to eliminate sources of standing water and mosquito breeding areas to reduce exposure risk.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene keeps a record of confirmed cases on its website: http://goo.gl/oAqPF6. For more information about the Zika virus, visit the HCHD website at http://harfordcountyhealth.com/zika-virus/ or the Maryland DHMH Zika webpage at: http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/pages/zika.aspx.
INFORMATION ABOUT ZIKA VIRUS VALUABLE FOR PREVENTION
Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly reminds the public that the best protection against the potential spread of the Zika virus is access to current and accurate information, especially as temperatures begin to climb and mosquito season begins.
Zika was first discovered in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys and was subsequently identified in humans in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Outbreaks of Zika virus disease (Zika) have been recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. Because most people don’t have symptoms, their symptoms are mild or are similar to those of other diseases, many cases are not recognized or reported.
The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Illness usually is mild with common symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis lasting for several days to a week. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. However, Zika virus infection remains a serious public health concern. It can be sexually transmitted and a pregnant women can pass the Zika virus to her fetus during pregnancy, which can cause birth defects.
Zika spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. They prefer to bite people, live indoors and outdoors near people, and are aggressive daytime biters that can also bite at night.
Since these mosquitoes are primarily container breeders and typically lay eggs in and near standing water, the removal of water from things like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases remains one of the most important keys to protection.
The Health Department suggests the following to protect against mosquito bites.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. Choosing an EPA-registered repellent ensures the EPA has evaluated the product for effectiveness. When used as directed, EPA- registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breast-feeding women
- Always follow the product label instructions and reapply insect repellent as often as directed. Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
- Protect children from mosquito bites by dressing your child in clothing that covers arms and Cover cribs, strollers, and baby carries with mosquito netting
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old. Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old and do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
- Adults can spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items. Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See product information to learn how long the protection will last. If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
- Do NOT use permethrin products directly on skin. They are intended to treat clothing.
The Zika virus also can be spread during sex by a man infected with Zika to his partners. In known cases of sexual transmission, the men had symptoms. From these cases, we know the virus can be spread when the man has symptoms, before symptoms start, and after symptoms end. The CDC also has confirmed that people who have traveled to countries where the virus is actively transmitted (the Caribbean, Central American and South American countries) should abstain from unprotected sexual activity, especially if their partner is a woman who is pregnant or who could become pregnant. For more information on prevention steps, visit the CDC at http://goo.gl/mzPHVy.
Among Maryland’s nine confirmed cases of Zika, all have been related to travel from areas of ongoing transmission. Even if they do not feel sick, travelers returning to the United States from an area with Zika should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks so they do not spread the virus to mosquitoes that could pass the virus along to other people.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene keeps a record of confirmed cases on its website: http://goo.gl/oAqPF6. For more information about the Zika virus, visit the HCHD website at http://harfordcountyhealth.com/zika-virus/ or Maryland DHMH Zika webpage at: http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/pages/zika.aspx.