Health of­fi­cials want cit­i­zens to re­duce Zika risk

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By CH­ERYL MAT­TIX

cmat­tix@ce­cil­whig.com

— Ce­cil County’s top pub­lic health of­fi­cials urged all res­i­dents Tues­day to be vig­i­lant about help­ing re­duce the spread of the Zika virus here by tak­ing pre­ven­tive mea­sures to re­duce mosquito bites as warm weather be­gins.

“There’s no rea­son to be afraid,” Ce­cil County Health Of­fi­cer Stephanie Gar­rity said. “But we all need to be vig­i­lant.”

Zika virus was first iso­lated in the 1940s in Africa and has since spread across the world. It is car­ried by both the tiger and yel­low fever mos­qui­tos, which are found in Mary­land, and has reached pan­demic lev­els in Cen­tral and South Amer­ica over the past year.

Many in­fected peo­ple don’t de­velop symp­toms, which can in­clude fever, rash, joint pain or pink eye, mak­ing the virus

ELK­TON

dif­fi­cult to track. It is trans­mit­ted when a mosquito bites an in­fected per­son and then bites an­other per­son. The virus can be passed from a preg­nant woman to her baby, caus­ing mi­cro­cephaly or other birth de­fects in in­fants. It has also been linked with adult Guil­lan-Barre syn­drome, an au­toim­mune disease that causes mus­cle weak­ness.

Gar­rity ex­plained one sim­ple thing any­one can do is to elim­i­nate any small ar­eas of stand­ing wa­ter weekly at homes and busi­nesses.

“This type of mosquito likes to breed in small, dark pools of stand­ing wa­ter that might be ly­ing in­side an empty flower pot, child’s toy or old tire,” she said.

Ac­tions to take in­clude elim­i­nat­ing stand­ing wa­ter once a week, tightly cover wa­ter stor­age con­tain­ers, re­pair cracks in sep­tic tanks, cover open vents or plumb­ing pipes, use screens on win­dows, re­pair holes in screens and use air con­di­tion­ing when pos­si­ble.

Ev­ery­one should also use an in­sect re­pel­lent with ei­ther DEET, pi­caridin, icaridin, oil of le­mon eu­ca­lyp­tus or para men­thane-diol (PMD), of­fi­cials rec­om­mended.

County En­vi­ron­men­tal Health Di­rec­tor Fred von Staden said ev­ery­one should pro­tect them­selves out­side by wear­ing treated cloth­ing, long sleeves and long pants.

“Chil­dren un­der 2 months old should not be cov­ered with an in­sect re­pel­lant,” he said.

“There’s a lot we still don’t know about the Zika virus,” Deputy Health Of­fi­cer Robin Wad­dell added Tues­day dur­ing a work ses­sion pre­sen­ta­tion for the Ce­cil County Board of Health, which con­sists of the health of­fi­cer, county ex­ec­u­tive and county coun­cil. “There is no vac­cine to pre­vent it or medicine to cure it yet, but progress is be­ing made ev­ery day. Just yes­ter­day I learned there is a test avail­able to di­ag­nose it. It will show up in blood dur­ing the first week of in­fec­tion.”

Large tire piles are a habi­tat for breed­ing these mos­qui­tos, von Staden said.

“We plan to go out into the com­mu­nity and talk with busi­ness own­ers to ed­u­cate on ways to help,” he said.

Bill Voight and Bill Russell, who work for the Mary­land Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture in the sum­mer to spray in­sec­ti­cide to tem­po­rar­ily knock down large adult mosquito pop­u­la­tions in Ce­cil County, also ex­plained their jobs and an­swered ques­tions Tues­day morn­ing from of­fi­cials.

Voight, who has been spray­ing mos­qui­tos for the last 40 years, said they spray at night so as not to dis­rupt the com­mu­ni­ties, or harm many good in­sects that are day­time ac­cli­mated.

“We have a lot of rules to fol­low, such as we can only spray once a week in the same area and we can’t spray if our count test doesn’t war­rant it by get­ting three bites in 3 min­utes,” he said.

They use a qual­i­fied in­sec­ti­cide — not DDT — and they spray upon re­quest for a fee. If a neigh­bor­hood or a farm wants to be sprayed for mos­qui­tos, the in­ter­ested party must call Sab­rina Scholl at the County Fi­nance Depart­ment at 410-996-8054 to get sched­uled.

“The fee is based on time spent, us­ing $120 an hour as the rate,” she said.

Voight cau­tioned that the spray they do only is ef­fec­tive for about 25 min­utes.

Mean­while, the health depart­ment is mov­ing for­ward with a pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion cam­paign, in­clud­ing send­ing kits to all OB-GYN doc­tors, talks at schools, mari­nas, towns, sum­mer camps, home­less camps and the Cham­ber of Com­merce groups.

The state of Mary­land paid for Zika virus preven­tion kits to be sent to each county and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has re­quested $1.8 bil­lion from Congress to help fight the spread of the virus, although Congress has yet to act on the re­quest.

Wad­dell said Tues­day that as of April 27, there have been 12 re­ported cases of the Zika virus in Mary­land and a to­tal of 426 cases in the U.S. Many of those cases in­volved in­di­vid­u­als who had re­cently vis­ited foreign na­tions.

Any­one with ques­tions about the Zika virus can call the health depart­ment at 410996-5100, or visit the Zika virus in­for­ma­tion cen­ter on­line at www.ce­cil­coun­ty­health. org.

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