Health officials warn about the threat of Zika, already 19 cases in Maryland this year

Posted at 5:21 PM, May 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-01 18:20:54-04

Mosquitos are back!

Here in Maryland, the blood sucking pests start breeding in March, and with those itchy bites come the threat of more serious infections like Zika.

"It is very important that people know that Zika is still a global public health emergency,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen.  “And the main danger is for pregnant women because of the association with severe birth defects in the unborn child."

The virus is linked to babies being born with abnormally small heads and brains, a condition called microcephaly.

Since 2015 there have been 5,264 cases of Zika in the United States.  This year, 19 people have already contracted the illness here in Maryland.

The bugs might not be biting in your backyard yet, but with warm and wet weather in the forecast, Baltimore leaders say now is the time to take precautions.

"The best way for us to prevent mosquitos from breeding is to get rid of standing water,” Wen said.  “Even something as small as a bottle cap can be the breeding ground for mosquitos, so look in your yard and dump flower pots, dump Tupperware containers, cover your trashcans, just get rid of any area of standing water."

Several vaccines are in trials, but right now there is still no cure for the mosquito born disease.  It can also be transmitted sexually.

The City Health Department is getting ready to ramp up education efforts and is set to respond if there is a local case of Zika.

"We are also distributing this year about 6,000 kits for pregnant women, and those kits include bug spray, they include larvaecide to stop the mosquitos from breeding, also educational materials, and condoms," said Wen.

Health officials say pregnant women should not travel anywhere there is active Zika transmission.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, that includes Mexico, along with parts of the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Asia and Africa.

Here at home, there are cases of the virus being spread by mosquitos in Florida and Texas.