Pub­lic in­vited to at­tend town hall on Zika virus

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By BRI­ANNA SHEA

bshea@ce­cil­whig.com

— Ce­cil County res­i­dents are en­cour­aged to at­tend an in­for­ma­tional ses­sion on the Zika virus held by the Ce­cil County Health Depart­ment later in the month.

The meet­ing will be held in the Elk Room of the county ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing at 6:30 p.m. June 15.

County and state health of­fi­cials will dis­cuss the virus and an­swer ques­tions from the pub­lic. The meet-

ELK­TON

ing is part of an on­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Maryland Depart­ment of Health and Men­tal Hy­giene and coun­ties to raise aware­ness and pre­ven­tion of the virus.

Lo­cal of­fi­cials such as Robin Wad­dell, deputy county health of­fi­cer, and Fred von Staden, di­rec­tor of the county en­vi­ron­men­tal health ser­vices, will at­tend the meet­ing, said Gregg Bortz, pub­lic af­fairs of­fi­cer for the county health depart­ment. Dr. Howard Haft, deputy state sec­re­tary for pub­lic health ser­vices, will at­tend, as well.

Bortz said that while there is cur­rently no vac­cine for the Zika virus, it is po­ten­tially pre­ventable through tak­ing proac­tive mea­sures. Those mea­sures will be dis­cussed dur­ing the meet­ing.

Bortz said there are three top­ics to be dis­cussed at the meet­ing: the virus and how it is trans­mit­ted, the im­por­tance of erad­i­cat­ing stand­ing wa­ter where mos­qui­tos breed and fur­ther

pre­ven­tion ef­forts.

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 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 Guil­lanBarre syn­drome, an au­toim­mune dis­ease that causes mus­cle weak­ness.

On Tues­day, a Hon­duran woman gave birth to a daugh­ter with Zika-re­lated mi­cro­cephaly in New Jer­sey — the sec­ond such oc-

cur­rence in Amer­ica af­ter a Jan­uary case in Hawaii. As of last week, 17 peo­ple were con­firmed to have been in­fected with Zika in Maryland, but all cases — as well as both mi­cro­cephaly cases — have been linked to travel to Cen­tral and South Amer­ica.

To be proac­tive, res­i­dents should re­move stand­ing wa­ter once a week by tight-

ly clos­ing stor­age con­tain­ers and repairing cracks in sep­tic tanks, among other ways. They should also wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants when out­doors and use mos­quito re­pel­lent with ei­ther DEET, pi­caridin, oil of le­mon eu­ca­lyp­tus or para men­thane­diol (PMD), of­fi­cials rec­om­mended.

“We’re hope­ful

peo­ple

come out if they have any ques­tions or con­cerns,” Bortz said. “We are now en­ter­ing, ob­vi­ously, sum­mer months and the ac­tive mos­quito months.”

Res­i­dents with ques­tions about the virus can also call the health depart­ment at 410-996-5100 or visit the county’s Zika virus information cen­ter on­line at www. ce­cil­coun­ty­health.org.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF THE CDC

The yel­lowfever mos­quito is one of the known trans­mit­ters of the Zika virus, and of­fi­cials are en­cour­ag­ing the pub­lic to dis­turb and pre­vent its breed­ing ground: stand­ing wa­ter.

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