State tests mosquitos for Zika and other viruses

Posted at 3:27 PM, Jun 30, 2016

The state's seasonal mosquito surveillance and testing has added Zika to its list of mosquito-borne viruses to monitor.

The New York State Department of Health (NYSOH) conducts surveillance for mosquito-borne viruses that pose a risk to human health, including West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus.

"Mosquito-borne diseases are a major public health threat, one that we monitor closely here in New York," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard 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."

The main species involved in the spread of Zika in south and Central America so far is the Aedes aegypti. This species is not present in New York, but a related species, Aedes albopictus, may also transmit the virus and has been identified in the lower Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island.

There is no evidence so far that the Aedes albopictus is a Zika carrier, but the NYSOH is working with local health departments to monitor them.

Monitoring mosquitoes is a critical role in the county Zika Action Plans, which is part of a six-step plan announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo to address the threat of Zika.

All known 324 Zika cases in the U.S. are travel-associated. There have been no cases acquired locally from mosquito bites in New York.

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild, symptoms do not typically last more than a week, and many are unaware they have even been infected.

Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects.

NYSDOH is also keeping an eye out for West Nile Virus (WNV). Culex species mosquitos are the primary source of WNV in New York.

In 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 five boroughs of New York City. There were also 41 human cases of WNV disease (Nassau 9, NYC 24, Rockland 1, Suffolk 5, and Westchester 2) all non fatal.

WNV can be serious at any age, but people over 60 are at the greatest risk. Others at risk include those with cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease.

NYSDOH is also conducting surveillance for Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). Aedes, Coquillettidia, and Culex species mosquitos are the most common transmitters of the illness.

Last year, EEE positive mosquitos were reported in four counties (Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, and Oswego). There were also three human cases (Onondaga 2, Oswego 1).

Most people infected with EEE have no apparent illness, but serious cases involving an inflammation of the brain begin with a sudden headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. This can progress into disorientation, seizures or coma. EEE has about a 33%mortality rate. Most survivors have significant brain damage.

The Department maintains a Zika Information Line (1-888-364-4723) Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.