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“Town Hall” meeting on Zika virus scheduled

May 26th, 2016 by WCBC Radio

Zika virus has become a hot-button topic in the news lately, with health officials linking the virus to cases of microcephaly in infants born to infected pregnant women.  Still, many Americans do not know much about this emerging health threat.  The public is invited to attend a Zika “Town Hall” meeting on Tuesday, June 7, at 1:00 p.m., in Room 226 of Frostburg State University’s Compton Science Center.  Among the panel of health officials at the event will be Dr. Howard Haft, Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  The forum is being jointly hosted by Allegany County Health Department, Garrett County Health Department, and Frostburg State University Brady Health Center.

Zika is primarily spread through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito.  It can also be spread from mother to child during pregnancy or delivery, through infected blood, or by sexual contact. 

“In general, Zika symptoms are fairly mild including fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes.  However, when a pregnant woman is infected, Zika can cause decreased head size and severe brain defects in the child” said Jenelle Mayer, Allegany County Health Officer.  It is important that the whole community learn about Zika and take necessary steps to prevent its spread. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been no locally-acquired Zika cases in the United States.  All cases have been among people that travelled to areas outside of the United States.  There have been 544 travel-associated cases reported, 16 of which were in Maryland.

“The threat posed to pregnant women by the Zika virus is a special concern that will be addressed at this meeting. For individuals of reproductive age planning vacations or service trips to areas of the world where the disease is endemic, information provided at this Town Hall meeting will be invaluable,” said Rodney Glotfelty, Garrett County Health Officer.  

Health officials recommend taking preventive measures including eliminating standing water sources around your home that create a breeding ground for mosquitoes such as dog dishes, bird baths, and tires.  Another recommendation is to use DEET-containing insect repellant.  DEET is safe for use by pregnant women and small children in accordance with the usage instructions on the product label.

Additional topics to be presented at the meeting include information on surveillance, recommendations on testing, and available intervention if a positive case is detected.

More information about Zika and prevention strategies can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web site at www.cdc.gov/zika.  

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