Health and Mental Hygiene working with
CDC to monitor Zika activity, coordinate testing
Baltimore, MD (February 5,
2016) – The Department of
Health and Mental Hygiene has been monitoring the activity and transmission of
the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus that has caused the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue travel warnings for pregnant
Health and Mental Hygiene is monitoring
the national and global situations and is in frequent communication with the
CDC. The department regularly communicates with and distributes guidance to
Maryland hospitals, healthcare providers and the public. The Department is maintaining situational awareness and
facilitating testing of individuals who have traveled to areas with ongoing
Zika transmission – with an emphasis on pregnant women.
“Our department has been very active in
responding to the developing Zika situation. We are providing up-to-date CDC
guidance to Maryland healthcare providers, laboratories, and health
departments.” said Secretary Van T. Mitchell. “To date, we have not had a confirmed
case of Zika in Maryland. However, we are aware of Marylanders’ concerns about
risks related to the virus, and we are working closely with healthcare
providers to expedite testing, particularly for pregnant women.”
“We have sent samples from travelers to
affected countries to the CDC to test, and we are awaiting test results,” said
Public Health Deputy Secretary Dr. Howard Haft. “We encourage Marylanders who
have questions about how their travel histories might affect their risk to
consult their physicians.”
other travelers to our area returning from regions with ongoing Zika transmission,
such as the Caribbean and Central and South America, may have been exposed to
the virus. As such, the arrival of travelers makes it likely that Maryland will
see confirmed cases of infection. Three Washington, D.C., residents and one
Virginia resident, all of whom traveled to areas with ongoing transmission,
have tested positive for Zika.
to the CDC, the virus chiefly is transmitted through mosquito bite, though
there also more have
been reports of transmission through blood transfusion and sexual contact.
Zika may include fever, rash, conjunctivitis and joint pains. But the CDC has
emphasized that not all people who become infected with the virus display symptoms, even
throughout the course of infection that can last several days to a week. The CDC says, in fact, about one
in five people will display symptoms.
most state health departments do not have capacity for doing Zika testing;
however, the Health and Mental Hygiene public health laboratory expects to be
able to test for Zika in the next two weeks. Meanwhile, we are sending all
samples directly to the CDC labs for analysis.
We will keep the public informed on positive tests through weekly
updates. Health and Mental Hygiene’s Communications Office will serve as the
point of contact for media inquiries into Zika updates.
There is no
vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika. Persons who are concerned that
they may have been exposed to Zika virus or who have symptoms of Zika virus
infection should talk to their healthcare provider because symptoms of illness
can be caused by a number of different ailments. Because we are in the midst of
flu season, we encourage Marylanders to get a flu shot.
Mental Hygiene will continue to rely on the best, most accurate and current
information concerning this disease as presented and confirmed by the CDC. The
CDC continues to investigate what link there might be between Zika cases in
pregnant women and infants born with microcephaly, a birth defect where a
baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared with those of babies of the
same sex and age. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might
not have developed properly.
Mental Hygiene is working with the Maryland Department of Agriculture to
prepare for upcoming warmer temperatures when mosquito activity will increase
and where that activity could affect residents’ health. As a rule, during
warmer months, residents should work to eliminate standing water around their
homes that could facilitate breeding grounds for the insects. Agriculture’s
Mosquito Control program can be found at http://goo.gl/A1K6YP. For more
information on Zika, visit our website at http://goo.gl/6Jz7W5 or the CDC’s
site at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is
the state government agency that protects Maryland’s public health. We work together to promote and improve the
health and safety of all Marylanders through disease prevention, access to
care, quality management, and community engagement. Stay connected: www.twitter.com/MarylandDHMH and www.facebook.com/MarylandDHMH.
201 W. Preston Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-2399
(410) 767-6500 or 1-877-463-3464