NYS Health Officials Heading to CDC Zika Summit after Rolling out Comprehensive Plan to Combat the Virus

Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker Leads Delegation to Atlanta on Friday to Discuss Strategies for Protecting Pregnant Women

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 31, 2016) - The New York State Department of Health (DOH) today announced that Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker will lead a team of state and local health officials to a federal Zika Action Plan Summit to share strategies and best practices with colleagues from across the nation. The gathering will be held this Friday at the Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced New York's comprehensive, first-in-the-nation plan to combat Zika by targeting mosquitoes and taking aggressive steps to protect pregnant women, who face the greatest danger from the virus. There is increasing evidence that Zika is linked to a birth defect known as microcephaly in the developing fetuses of infected mothers. While New York mosquitoes are not yet confirmed to carry the virus, the state's plan would limit a potential outbreak.

"New York State is leading the nation in the fight against Zika," Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker said. "I'm looking forward to attending this important summit and sharing the proactive steps we've taken to confront Zika, protect pregnant women, and educate the public. I'm also eager to learn what the CDC and my colleagues in other states have learned that we can apply here in New York."

On March 17, Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Zucker launched a six-step Zika Action Plan that includes distributing 100,000 larvicide tablets to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds; aggressively monitoring the mosquito population through trapping and testing; providing free Zika protection kits to pregnant women; deploying Rapid Response Teams wherever local mosquito transmission is confirmed; issuing emergency regulations requiring local Zika Action Plans; and launching a broad public awareness campaign.

"We are moving quickly and decisively to limit the impact that Zika virus has in New York," Brad Hutton, Deputy Commissioner of the DOH Office of Public Health, said. "Through the Wadsworth Center, our Department has the most expansive Zika testing program in the nation. Wadsworth will be able to test up to 60,000 mosquitoes per month for the Zika virus. If even one mosquito pool tests positive for Zika, we will immediately deploy a Rapid Response Team to the affected area."

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus transmitted primarily by the Aedes aegypti mosquito in South and Central America. The virus may also be sexually transmitted. Although Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are not present in New York, a related species named Aedes albopictus is active in New York City, Long Island, and the lower Hudson Valley. Scientists have not yet determined if Aedes albopictus – the type in New York – transmits Zika. Mosquito season runs from April through September.

Confirmed cases in New York have mostly resulted from international travel. As of March 30, 62 New York State residents have tested positive for Zika virus. Sixty-one of those patients acquired the virus while traveling abroad; it is suspected the other patient acquired the virus through sexual contact with an infected person. There are still no confirmed mosquito-to-human transmissions in New York State or the continental United States.

DOH urges anyone (pregnant women and their sexual partners in particular) who has visited countries impacted by this virus to consult with their healthcare professionals, and remain alert for possible symptoms. Healthcare providers must report all potential cases of the Zika virus to their local health department to allow DOH to monitor the occurrence of the disease and ensure a coordinated response.

A Zika information line (1-888-364-4723) is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. to answer concerns and questions from the public or healthcare providers. Additional information is available at http://ny.gov/zika.