Anne Arundel County Combats Zika Virus
Anne Arundel County has recently joined the fight against the Zika virus. Throughout the United States, 544 cases of Zika have been reported, with 19 of these incidents originating in Maryland. So far, no Zika cases in Maryland have resulted from transmission, but cases have resulted from residents traveling overseas.
“Zika is a viral disease spread to people mostly through the bite of an infected mosquito,” said Elin Jones, spokesperson for the Anne Arundel County Department of Health. “It is transmitted primarily by the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, which is common in Maryland, can also spread the virus. Both types of mosquitoes bite during the day and at night.”
As summer continues, Maryland’s swarm of mosquitoes may exacerbate. A person infected with Zika after being bitten by a mosquito may not obtain noticeable symptoms. “Most individuals infected with the Zika virus will not have any symptoms or signs of illness,” Jones said. “People who do develop illness may have a fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis. Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known but is likely to be a few days to a week.”
The disease becomes more harmful, however, if the affected person is pregnant. Not only can it harm the host, but the fetus may suffer from Zika as well. “Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, and infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects of the brain,” Jones said.
There is currently no vaccine for Zika. Recommended treatment includes rest, fluid consumption to prevent dehydration, and acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain. People with Zika are not likely to contract the disease again.
Zika can also be transmitted through blood transfusion or through sexual contact. Condoms, if used correctly, can reduce the chance of spreading Zika sexually.
According to Jones, the Department of Health is combating Zika by educating people about the virus. “Public education and community awareness are important in combating Zika,” Jones explained. When Governor Larry Hogan declared April 24-30 Maryland Zika Awareness Week, the Department of Health held a free public town hall meeting at Anne Arundel Community College. At the meeting, DOH staff, joined by Maryland Department of Agriculture representatives, provided an overview on Zika virus disease, as well as information on mosquito prevention and control.
Jones believes that certain precautions can prevent individuals from obtaining Zika. She advises people to avoid contact with mosquitoes by wearing long pants, long-sleeved clothing and insect repellant. Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so Jones recommends that people eliminate any standing water outside their homes to prevent breeding. Yellow bug lights and properly working window screens can also keep mosquitoes away.
Though the Department of Health has taken a number of steps to eliminate Zika, there is still more to be done. “During mosquito season, May 1 through October 31, a number of steps are being taken,” Jones said, noting that the Maryland Department of Agriculture provides spraying and community mosquito control services in Anne Arundel County.
For more information about mosquito control and scheduled spraying activities, visit www.mda.maryland.gov or call 410-841-5870. To report standing water related to residential swimming pools and ponds, call the Anne Arundel County Department of Health at 410-222-7364.