UPDATE: Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen provides the following guidance:
Out of an abundance of caution, the Baltimore City Health Department continues to monitor the movement of the virus, particularly among travelers. We have sent letters (attachments below) to Baltimore City Clinicians to update them on recent events surrounding Zika Virus and urge them to follow CDC guidelines when seeing patients with a history of travel to an area with ongoing Zika transmission.
This is a quickly developing situation. The Baltimore City Health Department is closely monitoring and working with our State and Federal partners. For more information, visit the BCHD website and CDC website.
What is Zika and why is there so much news about it?
Zika is a disease caused by Zika virus that is spread by mosquito bite. It has existed since 1947 in Africa and Asia, but has only been in the Americas since 2007.
Zika infection during pregnancy has been linked to microcephaly, a serious birth defect which causes abnormally small heads and brain damage. In February 2016, the World Health Organization has declared Zika a global public health emergency. It has spread to more than 45 countries, including those in the Caribbean, Central and South Americas, and the Pacific Islands/Oceana.
What are the symptoms of Zika? Is there treatment or a vaccine?
Most people with Zika don’t have symptoms at all. About 1 in 5 people will have symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes) or headaches. Most people will have a mild infection, which require no hospitalization and go away on their own.
Zika infection during pregnancy has been linked to microcephaly, a serious birth defect.
There is no anti-viral treatment and no vaccine to prevent from getting Zika at this time, though researchers are working hard to develop a vaccine against Zika.
How is Zika transmitted?
Zika is primarily transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes. Aedes mosquitoes become infected when they bite a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.
Zika can also be transmitted through unprotected sex.
Zika cannot be transmitted via casual contact, such as shaking someone’s hand. It can also be transmitted by blood transfusion and from an infected pregnant mother to her baby.
Are there any local mosquito-borne cases in Baltimore?
At the moment, there are no cases of local mosquito-borne illnesses in Baltimore. There have been multiple confirmed cases of mosquito-borne Zika in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The CDC recommends the same travel guidelines for the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami as they do for countries affected by Zika.
Maryland currently has 48 travel-associated cases.
There are now about 1,658 travel-associated cases in the continental U.S. and 4,729 cases in the territories of American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
It is likely that a traveler infected with Zika could return to Baltimore. The Baltimore City Health Department is closely monitoring the situation with our state and federal partners.
Should I worry that I will get Zika?
If you have traveled to an area with Zika virus, talk to your doctor about your risk for Zika virus infection. An updated list of countries with Zika can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html.
Should I travel?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking all pregnant women to consider postponing travel to areas with Zika transmission. If you must travel, talk to your doctor and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites. Women trying to become pregnant should speak with their doctors before traveling.
How can I prevent from getting Zika or from brining it to Baltimore?
Without an existing cure or vaccine, prevention and preparedness are key to combating the spread of Zika.
Here are four easy, proactive steps that every Baltimore resident can take to protect their communities:
1. Be on the lookout for potential breeding sites for mosquitos.
The type of mosquito that carries Zika, are known as container breeders, needing only the amount of water in a bottle cap to breed. Make sure to:
- Remove any standing water in buckets, coolers, or old tires.
- Cover trash cans and keep recycling bins flipped over,
- Clear your roof gutters, and
- Treat birdbaths, ponds, or any outdoor still water with larvicide tablets.
2. Take steps to mosquito-proof your home—or yourself when outside.
Whenever possible, please keep screens on all windows, shutting doors and windows without screens, using air conditioning when possible, and repairing damaged or torn holes in screens.
When outside, use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent. Residents are also advised to call 311 if they see standing water in their neighborhood for four days or more and cannot find a way to remove it themselves.
3. Take precautions if you or a loved one has recently traveled—or plan to travel—to a country where Zika has been detected.
Those planning to visit the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami or a country where Zika transmission is active, should make sure to wear insect repellent, light-weight long sleeves and pants, and treat their clothes with Permethrin. Pregnant women should postpone trips to Zika-infected areas until after their pregnancy whenever possible. And women who are planning on becoming pregnant should talk to their healthcare providers before booking tickets.
When returning to Baltimore, 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. All individuals who have traveled to areas with Zika should use condoms every time for at least eight weeks if they haven’t shown Zika symptoms or at least six months for men who have shown symptoms.
4. Join our Zika Amabssador Program
Because prevention is the best way to address Zika, your involvement in sharing information about Zika and helping to remove standing water around your house and in your community is essential
Where do I go for more information?
- Please see our in-depth Q/A here.
- The Baltimore City Health Department will continue to provide updated information in collaboration with our partners. You can regularly visit http://health.baltimorecity.gov/zika-virus for updates or follow us on Twitter at @BMore_Healthy.
- This is a developing situation and guidelines may change. We are working very closely with State and federal officials and recommend that you regularly check the CDC Zika Virus website. The CDC has comprehensive Zika information available at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/.
Virus Zika: Preguntas y respuestas con al Comisionado de Salud.