HARRISBURG, Pa., April 7, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, the Department of Health held an exercise to bolster the state and local preparedness and response plans for potential future cases of locally-transmitted Zika in the commonwealth. The exercise, held in southeast Pennsylvania, emphasized collaboration with partners from state agencies, local health departments, emergency medical services, and other partners.
"Zika continues to be a major threat to pregnant women and those of childbearing age," said Secretary of Health Karen Murphy. "Zika is the first mosquito-borne illness known to cause birth defects, and more than 200 people have tested positive for the virus in the commonwealth.
"Although there have been no cases of individuals infected by mosquitoes in Pennsylvania, exercises like this one allow the department and our partners to train for potential scenarios and better protect the health of all Pennsylvanians."
Nearly 5,200 Zika virus cases have been reported so far in the United States. The majority of cases occurred in travelers who have returned from infected areas, although around 220 people have acquired the virus through local mosquito transmission in areas of Florida and Texas.
At this point, Aedes aegypti, the main mosquito known to carry the virus, has not been found in Pennsylvania. However, a second type of mosquito that may carry the virus, Aedes albopictus, has been found in southeastern Pennsylvania.
The best way to protect yourself from Zika virus is to prevent mosquito bites by:
- Using an EPA-registered insect repellent. EPA-registered repellents are safe for both pregnant women and children to use, but be sure to check the product label for any warnings and follow the instructions closely.
- Using air conditioning, window screens or insecticide-treated mosquito netting to keep mosquitoes out of the home.
- Reducing the number of mosquitoes outside by emptying or routinely changing standing water from containers such as flowerpots, pet dishes and bird baths.
- Wearing long sleeves and pants when outdoors.
Zika virus is generally a mild illness that is spread primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito, but can also be spread through sexual contact with a partner who has been infected with the virus. The greatest risk from Zika virus is to pregnant women and their babies, who can be born with serious birth defects if infected with the virus.
Common symptoms of Zika virus are:
- Joint pain; and
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes).
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Health