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May 29, 2017: Baltimore Unveils Zika Preparedness Plan

Baltimore City officials announced they are taking a citywide approach to combat the spread of Zika virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses.

The Zika virus is spread by mosquito bites or unprotected sex and is linked to serious birth defects.

“Ensuring that our city is safe from mosquitos and the diseases that they carry is dependent upon the collaboration of residents, community organizations, businesses, and city agencies,” Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement. “I encourage everyone to do their part to help keep our loved ones healthy.”

Health officials said there have been 5,274 confirmed cases of Zika in the U.S., including 224 locally-transmitted cases in Florida and Texas, through April. There have been 15 cases reported in Baltimore, all of which included individuals who traveled to an area with active Zika transmission and contracted the virus there.

“There are two mosquitoes that carry Zika, and both types of mosquitoes can be found in this area,” Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leana Wen said. “For that reason, we need to be prepared in case Zika comes to Maryland as a locally-transmitted infection.”

Zika cannot be transmitted via casual contact, but can be transmitted through sexual contact. It can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby, health officials said.

Health officials said that most people who are infected with Zika do not show symptoms, which can include red eyes, joint pain, rash and fever, but can still pass the virus on to others.

One of the biggest dangers surrounding Zika is to pregnant women, who can spread the virus to their unborn child. The virus then can cause microcephaly, a serious birth defect that causes abnormally small heads and severe brain damage.

“Zika requires an all-hands-on-deck response. Every resident can help keep Zika and other diseases out of Baltimore by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds in their communities and taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites,” Wen said in a statement. “Prevention and education are critical because there is no vaccine or cure for Zika. The effects of this virus could devastate generations to come, so we must be vigilant and act now.”

Vector control is the No. 1 weapon.

“If there’s one thing you think about doing today, encourage everyone to eliminate standing water in your communities,” said Terry Hickey, with the Mayor’s Office of Human Services.

“And then to actually go out and use the approved materials and products at our sites to spray to keep mosquito proliferation at a minimum,” said Michael Braverman, with Baltimore City Housing.

City officials offered the following tips to help stop the spread of Zika and other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes:

Eliminate mosquito breeding areas: The type of mosquito that carries Zika only needs a bottle cap full of water to breed. Residents should eliminate all standing water around their homes and in their communities by removing any standing water in buckets, coolers or old tires; covering trash cans and keep recycling bins flipped over; clearing roof gutters; and treating birdbaths, ponds, or any outdoor still water with larvicide tablets.

Take extra caution while pregnant and before conceiving: Those planning to visit areas where Zika transmission is active should make sure to use insect repellent, wear light-weight long sleeves and pants, and treat their clothes with permethrin. Pregnant women should postpone trips to areas with active Zika transmission until after their pregnancy.
Protect homes from mosquitoes: Whenever possible, keep screens on all windows, shut doors and windows without screens, use air conditioning and repair damaged or torn holes in screens. When outside, use an EPA-registered insect repellent. Residents can also call 311 if they see standing water in their neighborhood for four days or more and cannot find a way to remove it themselves.

Protect homes from mosquitoes: Whenever possible, keep screens on all windows, shut doors and windows without screens, use air conditioning and repair damaged or torn holes in screens. When outside, use an EPA-registered insect repellent. Residents can also call 311 if they see standing water in their neighborhood for four days or more and cannot find a way to remove it themselves.

Take steps to prevent the spread of diseases after travel: After traveling to an area with Zika, use insect repellent for three weeks. To prevent sexual transmission, women who travel to an area with Zika should use condoms for eight weeks after they return, and all men should use condoms for six months after they return, regardless of whether they show symptoms.

Source: WBAL NBC TV

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