State Publishes First Weekly Mosquito Report for Testing of Mosquito-borne Viral Diseases, Including Zika

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 30, 2016) - The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) announced today that it has begun issuing the results of seasonal mosquito surveillance and testing statewide, and added Zika to its list of mosquito-borne viruses under surveillance.

The Department conducts surveillance for mosquito-borne viruses that pose a risk to human health, including West Nile virus (WNV) Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEEv), and Zika virus.Activities are performed in cooperation with local health departments (LHDs) and include training personnel on mosquito trapping and species identification; testing of mosquitos, humans and when appropriate, animals, by Wadsworth Center; helping identify areas with disease risk; and providing surveillance information to guide local decision-making on prevention and control measures.

New York's mosquito surveillance and testing program has been in effect since the 1970s, making the system one of the most mature, robust and reliable in the nation.

"Mosquito-borne diseases are a major public health threat, one that we monitor closely here in New York" said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard A. Zucker. "The program is especially important this year as we work aggressively to protect New Yorkers from Zika and minimize the impact of this devastating disease."

Zika virus is spread primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitos become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus and can then spread the virus to other people through bites.

The main species involved in the spread of Zika in south and Central America so far is the Aedes aegypti. The Aedes aegypti is not present in New York State, but Aedes albopictus, a related species that does live in New York State, may also transmit Zika virus. So far this year, the Aedes albopictus has been identified in the lower Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island.Although there is no evidence so far that the Aedes albopictus is a Zika carrier, NYSDOH is working with local health departments to aggressively monitor the distribution and abundance of Aedes albopictus within the State, and both NYSDOH and local health departments are trapping for Aedesmosquitos across the downstate region.

Mosquito surveillance plays a critical role in the county Zika Action Plans, especially in areas where Aedes albopictus have been detected. As a result of emergency regulations adopted in March, local health departments statewide had to submit Zika Action Plans that update protocols for trapping, testing and controlling mosquitos. The Department has approved plans for all counties across the state. Plans in the downstate area included details on how localities will enhance their mosquito testing for Aedesspeciesmosquitos as well as other important control activities.

Monitoring mosquitos and requiring county Zika Action Plans are part of a six-step plan announced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to address the threat of Zika. In addition, the state has distributed more than 5,000 larvicide tablets containing a naturally-occurring type of bacteria to control larval mosquitoes to residents who requested them. The NYSDOH has begun distributing nearly 1,000 Zika Pregnancy Kits to providers who see pregnant women who may travel to affected countries. The kits include mosquito repellent, larvicide tablets, condoms and educational materials. The State's Zika awareness campaign is running on television and radio stations and posters can be seen on public transportation. In the event of local Zika transmission, the state is prepared to deploy Rapid Response Teams to inspect surrounding areas, perform additional control measures and develop a local action plan.

As of June 28, Wadsworth Laboratory has analyzed more than 6,000 human specimens for Zika virus testing and identified 324 cases of Zika. All cases are travel-associated, either by the individual or their sexual partner traveling to areas with active Zika transmission. There have been no cases acquired locally from mosquito bitesin New York State. NYSDOH has also reported 22 pregnant women with any laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Zika Pregnancy Registry.The Department maintains a Zika Information Line (1-888-364-4723; Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) that has responded to more than 3,600 calls to date.

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild, and symptoms typically last no more than a week. Many people are unaware they have been infected. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal defects. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.

NYSDOH is also conducting surveillance for West Nile virus (WNV). While different mosquitos can transmit WNV, Culex species mosquitos are the primary source of WNV in New York State. WNV can cause febrile illness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord). Mosquitos become infected when they feed on infected birds and can then spread the virus to humans and other animals. In a very small number of cases, WNV has been spread through blood transfusions, organ transplants, and from mother to baby during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.

WNV can cause serious illness at any age, but people over 60 are at the greatest risk for severe disease. People who have received organ transplants and people with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease, are also at greater risk for serious illness.

During 2015, WNV mosquito activity was reported in 14 counties (Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Madison, Nassau, Oneida, Onondaga, Orange, Oswego, Rockland, Suffolk, Wayne, and Westchester) and in the 5 boroughs of New York City. New York also had 41 human cases of WNV disease (Nassau 9, NYC 24, Rockland 1, Suffolk 5, and Westchester 2), none fatal. A WNV positive horse was also identified in Cayuga County.

In addition, NYSDOH is conducting surveillance for Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), a rare illness in humans. Aedes, Coquillettidia, and Culex species mosquitos are the most common vectors of EEE virus (EEEv) in NYS. These mosquitos become infected by feeding on infected birds and will then occasionally feed on horses, humans and other mammals. EEEv is not spread person-to-person, from people to animals or from animals to people.

Most persons infected with EEEv have no apparent illness. Severe cases of EEE (involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, or coma. EEE is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States with approximately 33 percent mortality and significant brain damage in most survivors. There is no specific treatment for EEE; care is based on symptoms.

During 2015, EEEv positive mosquitos were reported in four counties (Madison, Oneida, Onondaga and Oswego), and EEEv positive horses were identified in three counties. NYSDOH also identified three human cases of EEE (Onondaga 2, Oswego 1), of which two were fatal.

Additional Information

During mosquito season, NYSDOH publishes a weekly mosquito-borne disease activity report, which is available on the Department's website at

More detailed information about mosquito-borne diseases and how individuals can protect themselves and their families is available at

More detailed information about Zika and how individuals can protect themselves is available at

Details about the Governor's 6 Step Zika Action Plan can be found at