Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Wednesday she has formed a working group to coordinate a plan to respond to Zika virus cases once they hit Baltimore.
The group will be made up of high level executives from different city agencies and led by Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.
The mosquito-born Zika virus has been known for decades, but a new outbreak has hit nearly three dozen countries and brought new urgency to stopping its spread. The virus was declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization and is suspected of causing a devastating brain disorder known as microcephaly, in which brain development is incomplete in babies born to infected women.
The state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced its first confirmed case of a Marylander infected with the Zika virus last week, but did not release details about the patient, including what part of the state they lived.
"An effective response to this disease will require a multi-agency approach to protect Baltimore City's citizens from the potential spread of the Zika virus," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "I am confident that the members of the Zika Preparedness Working Group, under the leadership of Dr. Wen, will identify and implement solutions to minimize the impact that this virus might have on the quality of life in Baltimore's communities."
The virus typically spreads through a bite from the Aedes mosquito, but transmission is also possible through blood transfusions and sexual intercourse.