NYS Health Commissioner Will Hold Webinar on Zika Virus for Health Professionals

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 30, 2016) - New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker will hold a webinar for health professionals to discuss the Zika virus, which has been spreading rapidly through South America since first being detected in Brazil in May 2015.

The webinar will be held on Monday, February 1, at 1:00 pm. To register for the webinar, go to: https://meetny.webex.com/meetny/onstage/g.php?MTID=e6b6e15700871efc005e0031f7c70c00a

Dr. Howard Zucker said, "As health professionals it is absolutely critical that we have the most up-to-date information on Zika virus, so we can advise the public, while also preventing the spread of misinformation and panic. This webinar will be an opportunity to discuss the steps the Department of Health is taking to reduce the risk of Zika virus for New Yorkers."

Zika virus is primarily spread by infected mosquitos, and so there is a very limited chance of local transmission in New York during the winter. However, to date there have been nine cases of Zika virus in New York State, two of which were confirmed late Friday. All of the infected patients are travelers returning to New York from countries with ongoing transmission of Zika virus.

Zika virus cannot be transmitted by casual person-to-person contact. While there is concern that Zika virus may be sexually transmitted, the primary method of transmission is from the bite of an infected mosquito.

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.

Pregnant women who have travelled to a country with ongoing transmission of Zika virus should contact their health care provider if they 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. DOH and CDC recommends that pregnant women review all travel warnings and consider not travelling to areas with ongoing transmission of Zika virus.

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 will continue 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/