Baltimore City Announces Zika Preparedness Plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contacts:

Michelle Mendes: Office: (410) 396-7286, Cell: (443) 862-0891

Officials urge residents to take caution to prevent the spread of Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses

BALTIMORE, MD (May 23, 2017)Baltimore City officials today announced citywide efforts to prevent the spread of Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses. The Zika virus is spread by mosquito bite or unprotected sex and is linked to serious birth defects.

“Ensuring that our city is safe from mosquitos and the diseases that they carry is dependent upon the collaboration of residents, community organizations, businesses, and city agencies,” said Mayor Catherine E. Pugh. “I encourage everyone to do their part to help keep our loved ones healthy.”

As of April 2017, there have been 5,274 cases of Zika in the U.S., including 224 locally-transmitted cases in Florida and Texas. In Baltimore City, there have been 15 cases in which individuals traveled to an area with active Zika transmission and contracted the virus. 

During mosquito season, Zika can be potentially transmitted in Baltimore if a local mosquito bites a person with Zika and becomes infected. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites. Zika cannot be transmitted via casual contact (i.e. shaking someone’s hand), but can be transmitted through sexual contact. It can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby.

Most people who are infected with Zika do not show symptoms, which can include red eyes, joint pain, rash, and fever, but can still pass the virus on to others. Zika infection during pregnancy has been linked to microcephaly, a serious birth defect which causes abnormally small heads and severe brain damage.

“Zika requires an all-hands-on-deck response. Every resident can help keep Zika and other diseases out of Baltimore by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds in their communities and taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. “Prevention and education are critical because there is no vaccine or cure for Zika. The effects of this virus could devastate generations to come, so we must be vigilant and act now.”

Since the emergence of the Zika virus in the U.S. in 2016, the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) has coordinated a citywide response and monitored the quickly-evolving situation. Last year, BCHD implemented the first plan of its kind in the state to help educate city agencies and communities across our city how to prevent and respond to the Zika virus.

City officials urge residents to take the following precautions during the warmer months to prevent the spread of Zika and other diseases transmitted by mosquitos:

Eliminate mosquito breeding areas. 

The type of mosquito that carries Zika only needs a bottle cap full of water to breed. Residents should eliminate all standing water around their homes and in their communities by:

  • Removing any standing water in buckets, coolers, or old tires;
  • Covering trash cans and keep recycling bins flipped over;
  • Clearing roof gutters;
  • Treating birdbaths, ponds, or any outdoor still water with larvicide tablets.

Take extra caution while pregnant and before conceiving. 

Those planning to visit areas where Zika transmission is active should make sure to use insect repellent, wear light-weight long sleeves and pants, and treat their clothes with Permethrin. Pregnant women should postpone trips to areas with active Zika transmission until after their pregnancy. Women who are planning on becoming pregnant should talk to their healthcare providers before booking tickets. If a partner of a pregnant woman has traveled to an area with active Zika transmission, use condoms or abstain from sex for the remainder of the pregnancy. The World Health Organization recommends waiting for at least six months before conceiving if you or your partner traveled to an area with active Zika transmission. 

Protect homes from mosquitos. 

Whenever possible, please keep screens on all windows, shut doors and windows without screens, use air conditioning, and repair damaged or torn holes in screens. When outside, use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent. Residents can also call 311 if they see standing water in their neighborhood for four days or more and cannot find a way to remove it themselves.

Take steps to prevent the spread of diseases after travel.

When returning to Baltimore after traveling to an area with Zika, use insect repellent for three weeks. This will prevent mosquitoes in Baltimore from biting anyone who may have been infected abroad to help prevent them from spreading the disease to someone else here in the city. To prevent sexual transmission, women who travel to an area with Zika should use condoms for 8 weeks after they return, and all men should use condoms for 6 months after they return, regardless of whether they show symptoms or not.

To learn more about the Zika Virus, including information for women who are, may become pregnant, and their partners, as well as tips to prevent the potential spread of the virus, please visit: http://health.baltimorecity.gov/zika-virus

The CDC has additional information including the latest travel guidance, available at: http://www.cdc.gov/zika

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