As the nation and state grapples with how to defend itself against the Zika virus, Maryland has recorded its first case of another mosquito-borne virus called West Nile.
The case was confirmed in a resident of Western Maryland who survived, according to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The West Nile virus has some of the same symptoms that are seen in those infected with Zika such as fever and rash, but with both viruses most people never appear sick.
Zika has caused widespread concern this year because it causes microcephaly, a birth defect that stunts the development of the brains and skulls of fetuses.
Public health officials have been warning pregnant women to cover up, wear insect repellent and avoid travel to areas heavily affected by Zika in Central and South America. Pregnant women also have been advised to avoid the Miami area where there have been the only locally transmitted cases in the mainland United States.
There have been no cases of Zika transmitted by local mosquitoes reported in Maryland, but there have been 64 travel-related cases. Nationally, there have been 2,260 cases reported, including 529 cases in pregnant women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
West Nile is reported most years in Maryland, with 46 cases recorded in 2015. State health officials say peak years for West Nile infections in Maryland were in 2003 and 2012, with 72 and 47 cases respectively. Nationally, there have been 213 cases so far this year of West Nile, according to the CDC.
West Nile has not been linked to any birth abnormalities, but in fewer than 1 percent of cases, those infected will have more severe symptoms such as high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation and paralysis. West Nile can be fatal, with seniors and those with compromised immune systems most at risk.
Health officials said West Nile has been detected in mosquitoes caught in traps in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and Eastern equine encephalitis, another mosquito-borne disease, has been found in mosquitoes on the Eastern Shore.
The state Department of Agriculture has scheduled regular spraying for mosquitoes around the state and plans to conduct additional spraying as needed. Health officials also urge residents to dump standing water where mosquitoes breed.