Health Officials Taking Notice Of New Development In Zika Virus

Four cases in Florida were transmitted by mosquitoes on the US mainland.

Annapolis, Md. (KM) It’s a development in the Zika virus which has a lot of health officials across the country taking notice. The State of Florida says it has detected four cases of the virus which were transmitted by mosquitoes from the US mainland.

“In terms of what this means for Maryland, I would say we’re not in any more danger then we’ve already been so far,” says Dr. Richard Brooks, Medical EpidemiologistĀ  with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“All the cases that we’ve had so far in Maryland have been travel associated, meaning they’ve been identified in people who have traveled to other parts of the world where we know the Zika virus is spreading. They’ve become infected with the virus there while they’ve been traveling. And then when they’ve come back, they’ve gotten their diagnoses,” he says.

The Zika virus has been detected in Latin and South America, and the Caribbean. It’s spread mostly by mosquitoes, in particular the Aedes aegypti breed. But some cases have been spread by the Aedes albopictus breed.

Dr. Brooks says so far, the AE aegypti breed has not been detected this year in Maryland. But it has been found in the past. “Theoretically, yes, we do have mosquitoes here in Maryland that would potentially be capable of spreading the Zika, though so far this season. we have not detected any Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which, again, are the ones that are much more likely to be responsible for spreading the virus locally, and are the ones that they think in Florida are responsible for spreading the virus there,” he says.

Even though the danger of Zika may not be as severe as in other states, Dr. Brooks says Maryland has been pro-active in spreading the word about the virus. He says DHMH sent out Zika Prevention Kits to local health departments for them to distribute to local physicians, and eventually to patients, particularly pregnant women. They contain “educational information about protecting themselves against mosquito bites, as well as how to reduce mosquito breeding sites in their immediate areas. It also included mosquito repellents, larvicides which killed mosquito larvae in their yards as well condoms to help prevent against sexual transmission of the virus,” says Dr. Brooks.

In addition to mosquito bites, Zika is also spread by sexual relations with an infected person. Pregnant women who contract the virus can bring babies into the world with birth defects, including mircocephaly and other fetal brain diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there’s no evidence of infants getting Zika through breastfeeding.

The Olympics areĀ  taking place in Rio de Janeiro in August, and Brazil is where the Zika virus has been detected. If you plan to go, Dr. Brooks says it may be best to stay indoors in an air conditioned hotel room. But if you must go out, you need to take precautions, including wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants, and usingĀ  mosquito repellent.