Zika Virus in New York: What You Need to Know
Officials with the World Health Organization have no doubt that local cases of the Zika virus will be reported in the United States as the weather warms in 2016. In fact, the WHO has predicted 4 million cases of Zika in 2016 in the Americas, though much of that will be in places like Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. New York is expected to be a hot spot for the virus because it is one of the top destinations in the country for international tourists. Figures from 2014 showed that nearly 57 million local and international tourists visited New York. That includes many visitors from countries where the Zika virus is now active. For example. New York had more than 920,000 visitors from Brazil in 2014 – the international hot spot for the virus. State officials are reacting to the arrival of the virus primarily with information that will help locals and visitors remain safe during mosquito season, which generally begins in April.
Zika testing. The New York Department of Health has already expanded its program of free testing for any international travelers with symptoms of the virus to all pregnant women who have been to any of the estimated 25 countries where the virus is active. The free testing is available even if pregnant women have no current signs of the virus, which includes rash, fever, joint pain and red eyes.
Public awareness. As of early March, New York officials were focusing on spreading information about Zika and how to avoid the virus, while preparing increase mosquito control activities for the season that generally begins in April. That included spreading information to women’s health providers, such as OB/GYN and family medicine practices. Additionally, information was being given to community and faith-based organizations in the state regarding the dangers of traveling to countries where the virus active.
Health department actions. The New York Health Department was been active throughout 2016 in reacting to the threat from the Zika virus. Two health alerts urging travelers returning from trips overseas to report any cases of Zika. Also, a special travel alert for pregnant women was created and distributed to elected officials, physicians and community and health-based organizations – in 9 languages. Health Department officials are currently gearing up for mosquito season with plan to expand upon West Nile virus mosquito control once local cases are reported in the state.