New York state will monitor and target a type of mosquito that officials fear could spread the Zika virus, part of a new plan to combat the disease that also includes distributing prevention kits to pregnant women.
The state has seen 49 cases of Zika so far, nearly all of them in people who have recently traveled to affected areas, which include Central and South America, Africa and Asia.
“We expect that number to go up. How high we don’t know,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said March 17 at a Manhattan news conference called to unveil the new protocols. “From a public health point of view, we want to be prepared. We want to be ahead of it.”
The virus has been linked to congenital skull and brain defects in newborns and is believed to be sexually transmitted as well. The symptoms are usually mild, can include a rash, fever, joint pain, or conjunctivitis and appear a few days after a bite by an infected mosquito.
The virus is known to be spread primarily by a type of mosquito not present in the state — but a closely related species is found within New York in New York City and nearby counties. Officials say there is a possibility it too could spread the virus.
New York plans to monitor and test that type of mosquito for the virus, and distribute 100,000 free larvicide tablets that can be used to eliminate breeding sites for the insect in areas of standing water.
“We will eliminate Zika at its source,” said state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.
In addition, the state will distribute free prevention kits to pregnant woman that include repellent and condoms. The state is already offering free Zika virus tests to pregnant women who have traveled to affected areas or have sexual partners who have.
Connecticut Lab Identifies 1st Zika Case
Meanwhile, the first case of the Zika virus in Connecticut has been confirmed by state health officials, the Department of Public Health said March 18.
The unidentified patient is in his or her 60s and had traveled to a Zika-infected area. The person showed signs of the illness upon returning home in early March and the mosquito-borne viral infection was detected by a state laboratory, the health agency said.
The patient’s symptoms included a skin rash, conjunctivitis, fatigue, chills, headache and muscle aches. The department said the person has been seen by a physician and is recovering.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy directed the agency in January to begin testing for the Zika virus.
Public Health Commissioner Raul Pino urged residents to avoid traveling to affected countries. If they must go, he urged them to be vigilant.
The virus has become a concern because of mounting evidence linking Zika infection in pregnant women to a rare birth defect called microcephaly, in which a newborn’s head is smaller than normal and the brain may not have developed properly.
Last week, health officials said nearly 260 lab-confirmed Zika infections have been reported in the 50 states in the last year — a count that includes 18 pregnant women. Officials blame mosquito transmission for nearly all of the 283 cases reported in Puerto Rico and two other U.S. territories. The kind of mosquito that spreads Zika is found on the southern United States, so experts think it’s likely the pests will spread the virus there, too.