By Devin Bartolotta

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ/AP) — Maryland officials said they’ve begun their efforts to combat mosquitoes for the summer.

The Department of Agriculture will be dispatching trucks to spray breeding hot spots in hopes of minimizing the risk of the Zika virus developing in Maryland.

Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder said in a statement Tuesday that the “Zika virus continues to be a major public health concern” in the state and that officials “remain vigilant in our efforts to fight the disease here in Maryland.”

Officials will be working to eliminate potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes and will also be spraying to control the population.

“Our desire is to find all of the mosquitoes when they’re still in the larval stage, and kill them so they never become adults and they never fly around and bite people,” Brian Predergast said.

The devastating disease can cause severe birth defects in babies, irreversible paralysis and even death in adults.

Officials say as of May 24 there have been 198 cases of Zika virus in Maryland dating back to 2015, all of them associated with travel to areas where the disease has been actively transmitted.

So far this year, the CDC reports 121 cases of Zika nationwide, including 3 in Maryland.

It’s on the minds of many Baltimore parents.

“You see we like to keep him well-dressed and keep his skin covered,” one man said about his infant.

“Of course it doesn’t take much. I mean, after a rain if you just have a little bit of water, you can get the mosquitoes. So we do pay attention to it around our property, and we pay attention to it when we’re outside,” a woman said.

The best ways to protect yourself is to get rid of any standing water on your property, wear long sleeves and pants and always carry repellent.

“We hope that there will be no local transmission again this year, the risk is no greater this year than last year,” Predergast said.

If Zika does appear in Maryland this summer, the Department of Agriculture said they are prepared to respond anywhere in the State.

The State regularly sprays for mosquitoes in 16 Maryland counties, including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Harford Counties.

Officials said the disease has not been transmitted by mosquitoes in Maryland.

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(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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