By Bill Parry
As the summer travel season begins, the city Health Department is urging women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, along with their sexual partners, to avoid traveling to areas where the Zika virus is active.
There is ongoing transmission of the disease in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America.
As of last week, 1,067 New Yorkers have tested positive for the Zika virus disease, including 402 pregnant women. All of the cases were associated with travel. Of these travel-associated cases, 11 were sexually transmitted by a partner who traveled. To date, 32 infants have been born with birth defects consistent with Zika virus.
To renew awareness about the dangers of Zika, the Health Department is launching a citywide campaign, which will be promoted on television, social media and in newspapers. If travel to areas with Zika virus activity cannot be avoided, women should take precautions to prevent pregnancy and minimize potential Zika virus exposure by using condoms and avoiding mosquito exposure.
“As the summer season begins, this administration is committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers traveling to Zika-affected areas are taking preventative measures,” Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio said. “While we did not see any locally acquired cases of Zika last summer, we did see several hundred cases transmitted through travel in locations where the virus is still very prevalent. It is critical that New Yorkers who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, along with their sexual partners, do not travel to Zika-affected areas.”
While Zika is not currently circulating in Miami-Dade County in Florida or Brownsville Texas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel warning to these areas because transmission has occurred there before. Last year no mosquitoes tested positive for the Zika virus in New York City throughout the mosquito season, and all human cases of Zika infection were associated with travel to affected areas.
“Last year, the city took unprecedented action to raise awareness and reach out to communities about the risks of traveling to areas with Zika transmission,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. “This season our campaign and awareness efforts are shaped by what we learned over the past year. Although the transmission of the Zika virus remains unlikely, the virus continues to circulate in Latin America and the Caribbean islands. We urge women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, along with their sexual partners, to avoid traveling to these areas.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr