Baltimore City Announces Citywide Preparedness Plan for Zika Virus

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BALTIMORE, MD (April 26, 2016) – Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen today joined City leaders to announce Baltimore City’s Zika Preparedness Plan to educate the public about the Zika virus and coordinate a citywide response to help prevent the spread of the virus. Baltimore’s Citywide Zika Plan will be the first in Maryland, and aims to serve as a model for other cities.

“An effective response to this disease will require a multi-agency approach to protect Baltimore City’s citizens from the potential spread of the Zika virus,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “I am confident that the citywide plan announced today will minimize the impact that this virus might have on the quality of life in Baltimore’s communities.”

Zika is a disease spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, which can be found in the Baltimore region. The disease caused by Zika virus has been known since 1947, and the first transmission outside of Asia and Africa was reported in 2007.

Up to 80 percent of people infected show no symptoms; others have generally mild symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes) and headaches. There is currently no vaccine available. Zika infection in pregnancy is linked to microcephaly, a serious birth defect in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected.

As of today, Maryland has had nine confirmed cases of Zika virus infection. All have been related to travel to areas with ongoing transmission; none have involved local transmission.

During mosquito season, there is the potential for local transmission in Baltimore if an individual with travel associated Zika is bitten by a mosquito and that mosquito then bites other residents. 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.

The World Health Organization declared Zika a global public health emergency earlier this year and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued travel guidance for pregnant women to postpone travel to Zika-affected countries.

In February 2016, Mayor Rawlings-Blake announced the formation of a Strategic Zika Preparedness Task Force. Chaired by Dr. Wen and the Health Department team, this Task Force convened high-level representatives from nearly 20 City agencies to determine recommendations and assess the capacity for a city-wide response to the Zika virus. The citywide plan announced today, based on the Working Group’s recommendations to prevent the potential spread of the Zika Virus in Baltimore, consists of two major components:

  1. Develop and implement citywide mosquito control plan.

Baltimore City will restart the mosquito surveillance and control program, which has been inactive since 2007. This will involve:

  • Targeted spraying in affected areas with adulticide and larvacide in response to confirmed cases of Zika;
  • Starting responses to standing water through 311 and coordinating environmental sanitarians to distribute larvacide;
  • Conducting mosquito surveillance to identify mosquitos that may carry Zika; and
  • Increasing the City’s capacity to investigate possible cases of Zika and conduct community outreach.

Additionally, Baltimore City will provide Zika prevention kits for 9,000 pregnant women (which may include permethrin, repellent, condoms, and larvacide).

  1. Conduct widespread public education.

Over the last several months, the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) has conducted extensive public education around the Zika Virus and its potential impact on the region. Under the plan announced today, BCHD will continue to:

  • Distribute educational materials and messaging through media, social media, and community outreach;
  • Disseminate educational materials to all city agencies;
  • Continue to regularly updated hospitals and providers across the city with the latest CDC guidance; and
  • Engage in targeted outreach for pregnant women through the B’More for Healthy Babies program, as well as obstetric providers, Health Care Access Maryland (HCAM), Baltimore City Department of Social Services (BCDSS), and other entities.

In addition, BCHD will soon release a Zika Ambassador Program (ZAP) and informational packets which will provide City agencies, community based organizations, neighborhood associations, and individuals with the information they need to be aware of Zika, how to prevent it, and how to educate others. Through the ZAP, the Health Department will also hold “train the trainer” sessions for individuals from community based organizations to learn about Zika and receive the tools necessary to educate individuals they serve in their community.

A subcommittee of the Task Force is discussing personnel policy and occupational health matters.

“Baltimore City has never taken backseat to public health. This plan, the first of its kind in the state, will help educate city agencies and communities across our city how to prevent and respond to the Zika virus,” said Dr. Leana Wen. “There is no vaccine and no cure for Zika. That's why prevention and education are key. Every citizen can help keep Zika out of Baltimore by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds in their communities and taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites.”

The Zika Working Group will continue to monitor this this quickly evolving situation and will provide recommendations and updates as the latest information becomes available and will ensure coordination and rapid deployment of resources as necessary.

ZIKA PREVENTION TIPS:

STOP MOSQUITOES FROM BREEDING

Mosquitoes lay eggs in and near standing water found in:

  • Buckets
  • Roof gutters
  • Old tires
  • Pet dishes
  • Toys
  • Trash
  • Birdbaths and outdoor ponds
  • Coolers
  • Trash containers, and recycling bins

Mosquitoes only need the amount of water in a bottle cap to breed.

Make sure these objects do not become breeding sites for mosquitoes, by:

  • Removing them or put them inside
  • Covering them
  • Emptying once a week
  • Treating with larvicide tablets (available in most hardware stores)

USE INSECT REPELLENTS

  • Wear mosquito repellent when you are outdoors.
  • Use safe and effective repellents- www.epa.gov/insect-repellents. Look for these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, OLE, or PMD.
  • Always follow the label instructions.
  • Do not spray on skin under clothing.
  • If you use sunscreen, put sunscreen on first and insect repellent second.

COVER UP WITH CLOTHING

  • Wear light weight, long-sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing so treat clothing with permethrin. Permethrin is an insecticide that kills mosquitoes and other insects.
  • Follow product instructions closely.
  • Do not use permethrin directly on skin

TRAVEL PRECAUTIONS

  • Anyone who lives in or travels to an area with Zika and has not already been infected with Zika can get the Zika virus.
  • Check www.cdc.gov/zika to see where Zika is currently.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites if you travel and for 3 weeks after you return.
  • For all men who have traveled, use condoms start to finish every time you have sex (vaginal, oral, or anal) for at least 8 weeks, or 6 months if you showed symptoms.

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/

Related Stories

Baltimore City Health Department Announces Start of the Code Red Extreme Heat Season

BALTIMORE, MD (Wednesday, May 15, 2024)—On Wednesday, May 15, the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) announced the start of Baltimore City’s Code Red Extreme Heat season, spanning from May 15 to September 15. The Code Red Extreme Heat Program is a collaboration across multiple agencies to address the effects of extreme heat on the residents of Baltimore City. Throughout the summer months, various City agencies engage in public education among residents about the health consequences of prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Additionally, community outreach initiatives are conducted to provide information about energy assistance programs tailored for older adults and other vulnerable populations. 

 

Sanitary Sewer Overflow Notification

Department of Public Works sewer overflow map at the link 

Health Commissioner Extends Code Red Extreme Heat Alert Through Friday

With the heat index continuing to reach nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the Baltimore region, Baltimore City Acting Commissioner of Health, Mary Beth Haller, has extended the previously announced Code Red Extream Heat Alert through Friday, Sept. 8. The heat index is a measure of air temperature and relative humidity and indicates how hot it feels to the human body.