Governor enacts Zika virus response plan as mosquito season begins

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- One species of the mosquito, which is known to carry the harmful Zika virus also makes its home in Pennsylvania.

With more rain in the forecast, it makes for prime conditions for the pesky insect to breed.

Meanwhile, the state has a plan to keep an eye on the disease and prevent it from spreading.

Insects are called bugs for a reason, but the blood-sucking mosquito may be more than a pest, it also can spread the harmful Zika virus.

Besides symptoms similar to the common cold as well as a concern for pregnant women and abnormal development to their unborn babies, there are other health risks.

Pennsylvania Department of Health Deputy Secretary Dr. Loren Robinson said "paralysis of their muscles. It starts in their legs when their legs feel week, and the reason we're concerned about that is people think of your muscles as your arms, and your legs and moving around, but you have to think that you need your diaphragm to breathe."

The mosquito is certainly no stranger to Pennsylvania. It's why Governor Tom Wolf enacted a Zika virus surveillance program with the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health to answer the unknown questions about the disease.

"What would we do, how would we get people help, how will we keep people aware of what's going on, how do we make sure that we're paying attention to the cases that exist, that we're keeping track of the mosquitoes, and making sure that we have a plan just in case Zika does come to Pennsylvania," Dr. Robinson said.

As health administrators begin the Pennsylvania Zika Virus Response Plan in several counties across the state, residents can start their own surveillance plan closer to home.

"Mosquitoes love to breed in standing water, so if you have flower pots, after the weather this week, and kind of all week it's been raining, turn those flower pots upside down to get the water out of them, if there are tires, mosquitoes love to breed in tires," Dr. Robinson said.

Homeowners also should check clogged roof gutters, trash containers, and install or fix window and door screens.

So far, the only cases of Zika in Pennsylvania are from people who've traveled outside the country.

Prevention and awareness could be one of the best lines of defense.

"We want to make sure that we're prepared to track that mosquito. To track that mosquito just to see, are the mosquitoes in Pennsylvania actually carrying Zika, and what we would do if we see that mosquitoes are carrying Zika in Pennsylvania," Dr. Robinson said.

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