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Lawmakers Start A Buzz About Mosquito Prevention In Bridgeport

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, left, and Jonathan James, center, a public health associate with the Bridgeport Health Department, share information on mosquito-borne illnesses with residents of the city's Hollow neighborhood. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, center, speaks about mosquito prevention, as Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim looks on. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim encourages residents to do their part to prevent mosquito breeding in the city. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The City of Bridgeport launched a public awareness campaign about mosquito prevention Monday, with local officials going door-to-door to tell residents how they can help stop the spread of Zika and West Nile viruses and other insect-borne illnesses.

“Zika is a vicious, insidious virus and its handmaiden is the mosquito,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, holding up a door hanger of tips to protect residents. “These 10 steps — diez pasos — can help save lives, literally.”

Blumenthal joined Mayor Joe Ganim, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, several City Council members and volunteers at Nanny Goat Park in the city’s Hollow section, which had a few cases of West Nile virus in 2015, said Bridgeport Health Director Albertina Baptista.

Baptista, her staff and volunteers planned to spend the day passing out information on mosquito bite prevention and on the importance of eliminating standing water, a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Spread primarily by mosquitoes, Zika virus can cause serious birth defects in babies born to infected mothers, as well as fever, rash, pain and conjunctivitis. West Nile can cause high fever, headaches, nausea and vomiting and, in severe cases, coma, vision loss, paralysis and death.

The Senate recently approved $1.1 billion in funding to combat Zika virus, with about $450 million going toward research to develop a vaccine, Blumenthal said. The House has approved $622 million, he said, noting much can be done on the local level.

“A soda cap with water in it can serve as a breeding ground … for mosquitoes,” Himes said. “Our citizens can do a lot to solve this problem.”

The city’s Department of Health and Social Services created a simple door hanger with tips in both English and Spanish. Other fact sheets from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer information on traveling while pregnant and next steps after positive test results.

Ganim encouraged residents to look around their yards for any sources of standing water. Buckets, trash cans, old tires, pet dishes, clogged gutters and unused pools can all be sources, he said.

“You flip it over. It’s easy,” he said. “The hardest part is getting the awareness out on a local level. We’re not fighting bullets and guns here. We’re just fighting awareness.”

Anyone with questions about insect-borne illness and ways to prevent mosquito breeding may contact the health department at 203-576-7680 or h.

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