Markell declares Zika Awareness Day in Delaware

DOVER — On Friday, Gov. Jack Markell declared Monday Zika Awareness Day.

By doing so, state officials hope to remind people that preventing mosquito bites is the best protection against Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses.

“We are taking this opportunity to reach out through email and social media to schools, business organizations, nonprofits, and the medical community to provide Zika prevention information,” said Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf. “It is important that we remind people about basic steps we can all take to reduce the risk not only of Zika, should it spread to mosquitoes in the United States, but also of other mosquito-borne illnesses.

“Zika Awareness Day is about reminding people that a few precautions can reduce the risk of being bitten, including using mosquito repellent and reducing standing water around your home.”

There has been no mosquito transmission of Zika in the continental United States to date. Zika is a generally mild illness caused by a virus primarily transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes. The U.S. has more than 500 travel-associated cases, including three in Delaware. None of the Delawareans are pregnant.

About one in five people infected with the virus develop the disease, and most people who are infected do not develop symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms typically begin two to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. It can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth. It can also be transmitted sexually from an infected male to his sexual partners.

There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly (www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/microcephaly.html), a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age, and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant.

“DPH will be distributing Zika Prevention Kits for pregnant women at Delaware Women, Infants and Children clinics and other locations starting next week.” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “Recommended by the CDC, the kit contains mosquito repellent, condoms, thermometers and informational brochures. We are taking an ‘all hands on deck approach’ and working closely with many partners to get the word out and reduce the potential of local transmission.”

The primary concern in Delaware is for possible Zika transmissions comes from the Asian tiger mosquito, according to Dr. William Meredith, DNREC Mosquito Control Section administrator.

That species of mosquito not only is abundant, but also is aggressive daytime biter, he said.

Steps to take to reduce the risk of mosquito bites include:

• Use insect repellents;

• Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window or door screens to keep mosquitoes outside;

• Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are outside;

• Treat clothing and gear with permethrin available in pharmacies or purchase permethrin-treated items;

• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

For more information, visit: www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/mosquito/Pages/MC-Spray-Info.aspx.

Because there is neither a vaccine nor antiviral medications available to prevent Zika virus infection, the CDC recommends that women who are pregnant in any trimester:

• Consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. For an updated list of countries, visit: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices.

• Women who must travel to one of these areas, should talk to their doctor first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.

• Women trying to become pregnant should talk to their doctor about conception plans and the risk of Zika virus infection before traveling.

• If your male partner has or will travel to areas where Zika transmission is ongoing, use condoms for the duration of the pregnancy or abstain from sexual activity altogether.

• If a woman or couple is considering conceiving, and one or both partners has traveled to the impacted areas, they should consult with their doctor. In general, women should wait eight weeks before attempting conception and men should wait six months. For further information on conception recommendations, visit: dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/zika.html.

“Delaware is ready for the Zika virus,” said Dr. Awele Maduka-Ezeh, Public Health medical director and an infectious disease specialist. “We have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended plan in place with adaptations for Delaware and are constantly updating it as we prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Zika, and many other mosquito-borne illnesses are considered “mandatory reports” to DPH, meaning that health care providers are required to report individual cases with known or suspected Zika virus infection to state medical authorities.

For more information, visit dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/zika.html.

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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