The Zika virus has not shown up in the headlines of late, giving the impression that the threat was over. This is a huge misconception, because new cases have popped up in cities throughout the nation just this year. Six cases have been confirmed in Maryland, among the patients are three infants born to mothers infected with the virus.
Public health officials are preparing for the upcoming mosquito season, by encouraging pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas with Zika. Anyone traveling to these areas is encouraged to utilize insect repellents that have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is also highly recommended to wear long-sleeved shirts and utilize a mosquito net, while sleeping outdoors and in non-air conditioned environments.
The Zika virus has been linked to severe fetal brain defects and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Researchers recently discovered a link between Zika and new heart problems in adults. Pregnant women are at the highest risk, facing high potential for stillbirths, miscarriages and babies born with microcephaly, a severe genetic abnormality. It can also spread through sexual contact, blood transfusion and through the bite of an infected mosquito.
According to the CDC, there are 63 countries with active Zika virus transmission, in the Caribbean, Pacific Islands and Central and South America.
A total of 174 cases were reported in the United States during 2015 and 2016. Maryland agriculture officials plan to expand mosquito control spraying and increase awareness about the Zika virus, in preparation for the mosquito season.