NYS Department of Health Announces Steps to Address Zika Virus

Agency Confirms Additional Infections in New Yorkers Who Have Travelled to Countries Where Zika is Ongoing

Virus Cannot be Transmitted by Casual Contact

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 28, 2016) - The New York State Department of Health (DOH) today confirmed two additional cases of Zika virus in New York, bringing the total to seven. All of the infected patients are travelers returning to New York from countries where Zika virus is ongoing.

Zika virus cannot be transmitted by casual person-to-person contact. While there is concern that Zika virus may be sexually transmitted, officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have said the evidence of sexual transmission is insufficient.

Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Because Zika virus is primarily transmitted by infected mosquitos, there is very limited chance of local transmission in New York during the winter. Even so, the Department of Health is taking steps now to protect the health of all New Yorkers and to prepare for the warmer months when mosquitos will be active in New York."

The symptoms of Zika virus infection are usually very mild, and many people might not even realize they have been infected. However, there have been reports of increased cases of a birth defect known as microcephaly that may be associated with Zika virus infection among pregnant women. If you are pregnant and have travelled to a country where Zika is ongoing, contact your health care provider if you experience the following symptoms: fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms typically begin 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

Increasing Mosquito Surveillance

DOH regularly monitors mosquitos throughout New York State. Once warmer weather arrives, DOH will closely monitor mosquitos in regions where a certain mosquito species, Aedes albopictus, is present to identify the presence of Zika virus.

Aedes albopictus is a tropical mosquito that has difficulty surviving cold winters, which has limited its northward spread. The distribution of this mosquito is currently limited to New York City and the following counties: Nassau, Putnam, Orange, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester.

DOH is continuing to track the distribution of Aedes albopictus through enhanced mosquito surveillance. Additionally, other mosquito species collected and tested for West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus will also be tested for Zika virus.

Additional information on Zika is available on the DOH website at: http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/zika_virus/

Laboratory testing is available at NYSDOH's Wadsworth Laboratories

DOH's Wadsworth Laboratories is one of only a few state public health laboratories outside of the CDC that can test for Zika virus. DOH has reached out to medical providers via health advisories and informational messages to educate them on how to diagnose Zika virus, and how to submit samples to Wadsworth for testing. DOH will continue its outreach to medical providers.

Only one in five people infected with Zika virus will get sick, with the most common symptoms being fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms typically begin 2 to 7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. There is currently no vaccine to prevent infection or medicine to treat Zika virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information).

Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip:

  • Dress in long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Stay indoors when mosquitoes are most active
  • Use repellant products registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Do not overuse repellant – only apply as much as you need to provide protection
  • Read and follow label directions before you use any kind of repellant

See your healthcare provider if you are pregnant and develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes within 2 weeks after traveling to a country where Zika virus cases have been reported. Be sure to tell your health care provider where you traveled.

Because specific areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are difficult to determine and likely to change over time, CDC will update their travel notices as information becomes available. Travelers should check the CDC travel website frequently for the most up-to-date recommendations.