Maryland Mum on Reasons Behind Mosquito Spraying

Parts of Kensington, Gaithersburg sprayed in fight against Zika virus


Published:

The mosquito-borne disease Zika has appeared in Maryland only in individuals who have traveled to tropical areas where the illness is more prevalent.

Yu-Chan Chen via Flickr

In Maryland’s fight against the Zika virus, state mosquito sprayers have a specific rationale to decide when to move into a neighborhood.

But spokespeople from two state departments are mum on exactly why two Montgomery County neighborhoods were sprayed last week.

The reason, they say, is to protect patient confidentiality.

The Maryland Agriculture Department will conduct an “unscheduled spraying” either because of a human case of Zika or because disease-bearing mosquitoes are found in traps, said Mary Anderson, spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.

Neither state agriculture department spokeswoman Julie Oberg nor state health department spokesman D. Christopher Garrett would be specific why the state sprayed, on Aug. 22, the Olde Town area of Gaithersburg and an area near Westfield Wheaton on the Kensington-Wheaton line.

“We take concerns about patient confidentiality very seriously,” Oberg said.

Oberg said that when the state sprays it could be for either Zika or West Nile virus, a disease found in Maryland since 1999.

Zika is more common in tropical areas. Although the disease usually produces mild symptoms in adults, it has caused birth defects when pregnant women have become infected. Most people have no symptoms from West Nile virus, although it can cause a fever and in rare cases, death. Since 1999, 1,800 people have died from West Nile virus. In July, Zika killed one man in Utah, according to news reports.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported 85 cases have been found in the state as of Thursday, and each one was related to someone traveling to areas of the globe where the disease is more prevalent, Garrett said Tuesday.

Florida has reported the first cases where the disease has been spread locally.

Montgomery County generally does not spray for mosquitoes. But some county communities—including Rockville and Leisure World—and some homeowners associations spray for mosquitoes on their own, contracting with the agriculture department, Anderson said.

In addition to the Montgomery County locations, the agriculture department has sprayed, since Aug. 4, in Frederick, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties, and Baltimore city.

Although the state issued a press release about the Kensington and Gaithersburg spraying, many people were left out of the loop and may not have received the information. Emergency notification systems, which can disseminate important information by neighborhoods, only call land lines.

Anderson said the incident shows off the power of Alert Montgomery, which can send text alerts to people who have only cell phones. Alert Montgomery subscribers received the spraying notice, she said.

Editor’s note: This story has been edited since its original publication. This version updates the number of Maryland Zika cases, adds information about West Nile virus, and changes the attribution of the person supplying the information that the Montgomery County spraying was connected to Zika.

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