State prepares response plan for the Zika virus

Written by Rachel McDevitt/Radio Pennsylvania | May 17, 2016 5:19 AM

In this Feb. 1, 2016 photo, a technician from the British biotec company Oxitec holds a container of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that were genetically modified to produce offspring that don't live, in Campinas, Brazil, before releasing them into the wild as part of an effort to kill the local Aedes population, a vector for the Zika virus. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

(Harrisburg) -- With mosquito season bearing down on Pennsylvania, the state has developed a response plan for the mosquito-born Zika virus.

The Wolf Administration is concerned because the virus has been linked to severe birth defects.

The plan includes enhanced surveillance and communication from the state departments of Health and Environmental Protection.

Starting in June, the DEP will conduct 3,000 trapping events for mosquitos that could carry Zika to assess PA's risk level.

Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the two mosquito species that can carry Zika could reach PA.

DEP officials say that is unlikely but they will follow the projections out of an abundance of caution.

Secretary John Quigley says extra funds will be needed if an outbreak is detected, and Zika control teams need to be sent out. 

"If we detect populations or if the Department of Health identifies infected individuals, we will literally have to go house to house, yard to yard within a 150-200 yard radius," he says.

State Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy says her agency will be stepping up its efforts to monitor Zika cases contracted abroad and through sexual contact.

She says the state must be prepared for the possibility of cases locally transmitted by mosquitos.

"There must be enhanced surveillance efforts that focus on educating all returning travelers from affected countries to prevent mosquito bites in the week following their return," she says.

Health officials will also focus on extensive outreach to pregnant women and equipping state labs to be able to test for the virus.


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