New York City

NYC begins fight against the Zika virus

May 16, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York City faces a moderate risk (shown by the color of its circle) of establishing a mosquito population capable of transmitting the Zika virus by July, according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). In addition, Zika risk may be elevated in cities like New York, with more air travelers arriving from Latin America and the Caribbean (larger circles).  Image based on data mapped by Olga Wilhelmi, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

Aerial spraying began in Brooklyn last week

The city has begun spraying larvicide in a number of neighborhoods across the city in an effort to control mosquito-borne illnesses, including West Nile Virus and a potential new threat this year, the Zika virus.

Aerial spraying took place over the marshes and wetlands of Marine Park and Fresh Creek in Brooklyn last week. Parts of Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx were also sprayed.

West Nile symptoms include high fever, muscle pains and a headache that worsens. A small number of infected people (less than 1 percent) develop serious infections of the brain or spinal cord.

Zika is spread by an infected mosquito or after sexual intercourse with an infected person. It can cause mild symptoms, but has also been linked to the much more serious Guillain–Barré syndrome.

The major cause of concern, however, is the scientific consensus that Zika virus causes microcephaly — a smaller-than normal head — in newborn babies. These babies may later develop epilepsy, learning disabilities and other problems.

In a press conference on April 18, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will hire 51 new employees – including inspectors, exterminators, disease inspectors and lab analysts – for its anti-Zika campaign. The Health Department will also double the number of mosquito traps placed across the city. Zika investment totals $21 million over a three-year period, including a New York State match, de Blasio told reporters.

Outbreak in Brazil

Thousands of cases of microcephaly have been reported in Brazil, and the outbreak has spread to other Latin America countries and in the Caribbean. Pregnant women are advised not to travel to these areas. (Advice for pregnant women or women planning to conceive can be found at the Department of Health webpage.)  

The type of mosquito linked to the outbreak in Latin America, Aedes aegypti, has not yet been found in New York City. A study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, however, found that Aedes aegypti will likely be increasingly abundant as far north as New York City as the weather warms.

New York health officials are also worried about another mosquito that currently frequents the city, Aedes albopictus. Albopictus is also able to spread Zika to people, but experts are still not sure how likely it is to do so.

The Health Department’s Dr. Herminia Palacio told reporters on April 18 that scientists are “optimizing a whole new set of traps” for albopictus, with special construction and bait.

Residents can protect themselves from mosquito bites by wearing protective clothing, using mosquito repellant, eliminating standing water – the breeding sites for mosquitos – and by emptying any standing water in bird baths, cans, flower pots or any place where water could gather and mosquitoes could lay eggs. New Yorkers should call 311 to report any standing water they cannot manage themselves.

Health Department: 78 cases in NYC so far

As of May 11, the Health Department reports there were 78 cases of Zika detected in the city. None of these patients contracted the virus while in the city, however. All picked it up while traveling.

Across the U.S., 503 travel-associated cases have been reported. Ten cases were sexually transmitted.

According to StatNews, a health and medicine website, House Republicans introduced a Zika funding bill Monday that would provide $622 million — less than half of what the Obama administration wanted to be prepared for Zika this summer. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called the

The administration wants $1.9 billion in Zika funds. The Senate was set to vote on Tuesday on a bipartisan compromise that would provide $1.1 million.