Richmond, Va. – Governor Terry McAuliffe announced Friday that he will create a statewide task force to help Virginia residents prepare for the Zika virus.
The Virginia Department of Health will be responsible for creating Virginia localities on mosquito surveillance and control programs before the start of mosquito season on May 1.
“Prevention and mitigation are our best strategies for keeping Virginians healthy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “The Virginia Department of Health’s mission to prevent the spread of infectious diseases makes it well-suited to lead this multi-agency task force. The collaboration of agencies statewide will be invaluable as we prepare for the coming mosquito season.”
In January, the Virginia Department of Health confirmed that an adult resident of Virginia was infected with the Zika virus after traveling to a country where the virus transmission is ongoing.
The only case of the disease to have been acquired in the continental United States was an infection in Texas, which was sexually transmitted.
Zika virus is most commonly transmitted through the bite of an infectious mosquito, but cases of transmission through sexual contact and blood transfusion have also been reported.
“At this time, the risk of Zika virus being spread by mosquitoes in Virginia is low, but during mosquito season, mosquitoes do carry other viruses, like West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis virus,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Marissa J. Levine. “We should all get in the habit of taking proactive measures to prevent mosquito-breeding spots and mosquito bites.”
A pregnant woman infected with Zika virus can pass the virus to her unborn child. Microcephaly, a serious brain birth defect, has been reported in some infants born to mothers who were infected with the virus while pregnant.
The CDC has issued a travel advisory, recommending pregnant woman to postpone traveling to any area with active Zika virus transmission.