Agriculture agency urges public cooperation in fight against zika virus

Close-up of mosquito on human skin
Aedes aegypti mosquito after a blood meal
Image Credit: 
Sanofi Pasteur

ANNAPOLIS, MD (April 26, 2016) – Governor Larry Hogan has issued a proclamation declaring April 24-30 “Zika Virus Awareness Week,” and the Department of Agriculture urges residents to work with the agency if Zika comes to their area.

“Zika is an emerging disease, and what we know about its ability to cause birth defects is very disturbing. Equally disturbing is the fact we don’t know all there is to know about the disease. If we find any sign of Zika in Maryland, we will hit it hard and fast, and we ask the public to cooperate in this effort,” said Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder.

One major source of transmission is through the bite of certain species of infected Aedes mosquitoes – those are mosquitoes that lay their eggs in man-made containers of water, rather than in marshland. Maryland has had eight cases of confirmed Zika cases; however, all are associated with travel to such areas of active transmission as the Caribbean, South America and Central America.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture is currently conducting surveillance activities, which includes inspecting and treating containers and surveying the adult mosquito populations. The mosquito control spray program will start within next couple of weeks as the two mosquito species that can carry Zika virus begin to emerge and become active.

The Agriculture department regularly conducts surveillance for mosquitoes, in cooperation with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, to determine if they are present and in certain cases, if they are carrying diseases like Zika or West Nile Virus. Those efforts will be enhanced in light of Zika.

In addition, if there is a high risk of Zika transmission due to mosquito presence or activity, or a human case of Zika, then Agriculture, in cooperation with state and local health officials, will act quickly and decisively.  As soon as possible, the department will spray for adult mosquitoes immediately in a prescribed area around the detection to kill any adult mosquitoes that may be carrying the virus. Then, generally within 24 hours, inspectors will go door-to-door in the area to inspect properties for mosquito breeding sites and will conduct residual spraying that will reduce adult mosquito populations during the infectious period.

“If you see mosquito control workers in your neighborhood, please work with them. We are there to work with communities to protect public health,” said Secretary Bartenfelder.

The department has established a new Twitter feed @MdAgMosquito that will post unscheduled spray events, including Zika response, and other timely information about mosquito control in Maryland.

Prevention
The best way to avoid the Zika virus is to prevent mosquito bites and to eliminate areas where these mosquitoes lay their eggs. These areas are called “breeding sites.”

Maryland residents can take action now – because Aedes mosquitoes breed in containers of standing water, items like lawn furniture, corrugated drain pipes, flower pots, children’s toys and a variety of common household items can quickly become mosquito breeding grounds. It is vital that all Marylanders make an effort to survey their property and to eliminate anything where water can pool. For instance, store items that hold water inside or upside down. The department has posted a comprehensive list of tips to eliminate breeding sites on its website at www.mda.maryland.gov/zika.

Another important part of Zika virus prevention is avoiding mosquito bites. The department suggests that residents take precautions to minimize their exposure to mosquito bites. These measures include:

  • Wear long, loose fitting, light colored clothing
  • Apply insect repellents according to product labels
  • Avoid mosquito-infested areas during prime periods of activity (early and late in the day and at night in well-lit areas)
  • Install, inspect, and repair window and door screens in homes and stables

In addition to these precautionary measures, the department’s Mosquito Control section will be conducting surveillance and spray activities. These measures are necessary in order to identify problem areas and contain populations of Aedes mosquitoes.

For more tips on eliminating mosquito breeding areas, avoiding mosquito bites, and general information on Aedes mosquitoes, visit the Agriculture’s Zika website.

Resources

Originally published at http://news.maryland.gov/mda/press-release/2016/04/26/agriculture-agency...

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