WASHINGTON — With rain falling day after day across the D.C. area in the middle of mosquito season, local health officials are talking to residents about the Zika virus, spreading the word about the illness that is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes and can then be transmitted from human to human through sexual activity.
Only about one in five patients infected with Zika develops symptoms, but the virus can cause serious birth defects if a pregnant woman contracts it.
Specifically, Zika can lead to microcephaly, a birth defect in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected.
“The primary concern for Zika is its effects on the fetus,” said Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the D.C. Department of Health.
On Saturday, the department will hold educational meetings in all eight wards of the District, answering questions and distributing kits to the public.
“The kits include insect repellent, mosquito dunks and condoms,” Nesbitt said. “We’ll also be distributing educational materials that will give all of our residents information they need to protect themselves.”
The most recent figures from health departments around the area show four confirmed Zika cases in the District, 13 in Virginia and 16 in Maryland. All the cases are from people who traveled to Zika-affected areas such as Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
No Zika-infected mosquitoes have been reported in the D.C. area, but health officials are still urging residents to take precautions.
“We’re trying our best to get the word out to folks of, ‘How do we get rid of mosquito breeding grounds around our homes?'” said Dr. David Goodfriend, director of the Loudoun County Health Department.
“Anything that could hold water for at least a week is a mosquito breeding ground.”