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County Officials Form Zika Virus Work Group to Help Prevent Virus from Spreading to County

County Executive Isiah Leggett was joined last Friday by County Council President Nancy Floreen, County Health Officer Dr. Ulder J. Tillman, Department of Environmental Protection Director Lisa Feldt and County and representatives from several County departments and local municipal governments to urge residents to take steps to protect themselves and their families against the Zika virus.

The County has formed a Zika work group made up of the Departments of Environmental Protection, General Services, Housing and Community Affairs, Health and Human Services, Recreation, Transportation, the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (OEMHS), the Office of Public Information and 311 Call Center, the Parks Department and representatives from the local municipalities of Gaithersburg, Rockville and Takoma Park. Headed by OEMHS, the group has been coordinating efforts to educate the community about protection against mosquito bites and elimination of mosquito breeding sites.

“Let me be clear—we do not have any confirmed cases of locally acquired Zika virus in Montgomery County,” said Leggett. “All of the cases in Maryland are in individuals who have traveled where Zika is prevalent. However, we are just at the start of the mosquito season and as the weather heats up and more mosquitoes appear, we have to be vigilant.”

County officials said residents can help themselves and the community by getting rid of mosquito breeding spots, such as eliminating standing water in and around the home. Throwing out or empty and scrub items that hold water such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools and birdbaths.

Officials also suggest disposing of trash such as plastic bags, bottle caps, open drink cans or bottles, disposable cups and food wrappers. Keeping mosquitoes out of your home by using air conditioning when available and making sure there are screens on windows and doors and that screens do not have holes.

Another suggestion, was to make sure to clean out roof gutters and down-spouts. And ensuring tarps and swimming pool covers are positioned so water drains off.

To protect against mosquito bites, the best advice is to cover up with long sleeves and pants, limit outdoor activities during peak mosquito times and wear insect repellent.

“Although no mosquitos carrying the Zika virus have been detected in Montgomery County, we do know that mosquitos carrying this potentially devastating disease can thrive in our region, said County Council President Nancy Floreen. “That is why I encourage all Montgomery County residents to take precautions. It is important not only to protect yourself from mosquito bites but also to prevent mosquito from breeding around your home.”

“We do not know if the Zika virus will appear locally in Maryland and in Montgomery County but because of the serious birth defects that it can cause in pregnant women, we have to be prepared,” said Dr. Tillman. “There is no vaccine so preventing mosquito bites and eliminating mosquitoes is the best defense we have.”

The County is launching a public education and awareness campaign that includes a website where residents can find a wealth of information about eliminating mosquitoes, Zika virus and protection against mosquito bites. The campaign will include Ride On bus ads, a mail campaign and printed materials distributed to County facilities and community locations. Municipalities will provide information and resources to their residents as well.

“Knowledge and prevention is our biggest defense against the Zika virus,” said Feldt. “The County is working hard to ensure that residents have the information they need to protect themselves and their loved ones from mosquitoes.”

“We are trying to make certain that we are doing all we can to prevent the spread of this virus should it appear in Maryland and also protect against other mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus,” said Leggett.

For more information about Zika virus and mosquitoes, visit the County’s new website atwww.montgomerycountymd.gov/mosquito.