Public invited to attend town hall on Zika virus
— 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-
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
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.
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.
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.