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Governor Larry Hogan Authorizes $250,000 to Promote Zika Prevention

Maryland Agencies Working in Coordinated Effort to Raise Prevention Awareness

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today announced the authorization of $250,000 from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene budget to fund the continuation of the state’s Zika prevention efforts. On April 21, the governor issued a statewide proclamation declaring April 24-30 as Maryland Zika Awareness Week as part of an effort to increase awareness of the virus.

“Our administration’s first and main priority is keeping Marylanders safe, and we want our citizens to know that all levels of government are working together to respond to threats to public health,” said Governor Hogan. “Our state is taking every precaution when it comes to Zika – we are taking this issue seriously – and we will continue to coordinate all available resources in the months ahead.”

The virus is spread chiefly by Aedes mosquitoes, though sexual contact has been documented as a way of transmission. As of today, Maryland has experienced 12 confirmed cases of Zika infection – all have involved travel to areas where the virus is being actively transmitted – Carribean, South America and Central America – and sexual transmission.  There has been no local transmission from Maryland mosquitoes.

“Since early this year, our department has been working to raise awareness about Zika throughout the state,” said Health and Mental Hygiene’s Public Health Deputy Secretary Dr. Howard Haft. “The virus has been linked to birth defects, and we are working to prevent those by publicizing ways Marylanders can minimize risks for contracting or spreading Zika.”

Mosquito Control, operated by the Department of Agriculture, will be a crucial component of Maryland’s response. Aedesmosquitoes lay their eggs in containers of standing water around homes, rather than in wetland areas. The disease has not been transmitted locally in Maryland by mosquitoes, however, that may change as the Aedes mosquitoes become active in warmer weather, usually around the beginning of May. If a mosquito takes a blood meal from a recent traveler who has the Zika virus circulating in his or her blood, the mosquito can become infected and transmit the virus when it takes another blood meal.

In the coming weeks and months, the state will continue to work in a coordinated effort with officials from the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Mental Hygiene, Transportation and other agencies to raise Zika prevention awareness among Maryland residents and travelers.

About Zika Virus

Most people infected with the Zika virus do not know it, as symptoms are relatively mild. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). However, the virus poses a significant threat to pregnant women because it has been linked to birth defects, including a condition known as microcephaly. The virus may also be linked to a rare neurologic disorder, Guillain-Barré syndrome.

The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for the Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely a few days to a week. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for about a week but it can be found longer in some people. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections. There is no vaccine to prevent or to treat the disease at this time.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend residents see a health care provider if they show symptoms within two weeks of possible exposure to the Zika virus, especially if they have traveled to a region where the virus is active or have had sexual contact with someone who has traveled to those regions. Health and Mental Hygiene urges people who believe they are at risk for contracting Zika to alert their healthcare provider.

Prevention

Avoiding mosquito bites is critical to keep the Zika virus from spreading. And the best way to avoid bites is to eliminate areas where Aedes mosquitoes lay their eggs. These areas are called “breeding sites.”

“We anticipate a heightened risk for local transmission of the Zika virus as local Aedes mosquitoes become active in May,” said Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “The best way to prevent the Zika virus is to prevent mosquito bites. This is why it is critical for all Marylanders to survey their property for potential mosquito breeding areas. If you see mosquito control workers in your neighborhood, please work with them. We are there to work with communities to protect public health.”

Aedes mosquitoes breed in containers of standing water. Items like lawn furniture, corrugated drain pipes, flower pots, children’s toys and a variety of common household items can quickly become mosquito breeding grounds. It is vital that all Marylanders make an effort to survey their property now and drain or eliminate anything where water can pool. For instance, store items that hold water inside or upside down.

The department suggests that residents take precautions to minimize their exposure to mosquito bites. These measures include:

  • Wearing long, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing
  • Applying insect repellents according to product labels
  • Avoiding mosquito-infested areas during prime periods of activity (early and late in the day and at night in well-lit areas)
  • Installing, inspecting and repairing window and door screens in homes and stables

For more tips on eliminating mosquito breeding areas, avoiding mosquito bites, as well as general information on Aedesmosquitoes, visit the Department of Agriculture’s Zika website. Follow @MdAgMosquito on Twitter for the latest news on unscheduled spray events, including Zika response, and other timely information about mosquito control in Maryland. Agriculture and Health and Mental Hygiene also are promoting awareness on Twitter through the #MDZikaAwareness hashtag.

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