The Zika Virus — What You Should Know


The New York State Department of Health will offer advanced lab testing for individuals with symptoms who have travelled to areas where Zika virus infection is ongoing. This will be done by the Wadsworth Center – one of only three state laboratories in the nation with the ability to conduct this kind of advanced testing – and will also include screening and confirmatory tests for antibodies against Zika and other related viruses. Additionally, the state has launched a new information hotline (1-888-364-4723) for New Yorkers to call and learn more about the virus.

Governor Andrew Cuomo asserted that protecting the health of New York and its residents is his administration’s highest priority. Meanwhile, the state is working closely with the CDC and local health departments to address potential cases of Zika Virus. “By offering free testing we are helping to stay ahead of this disease and protect the public health. I encourage any New Yorkers who have recently traveled to impacted countries to stay informed and consult their health care professionals if they develop symptoms,” said Cuomo in a statement.


Zika Virus

Zika Virus  Getty Images

There are also some preliminary studies that suggest Zika virus could be transmitted sexually. One report from 2011 described a husband who had traveled through Senegal, where he caught Zika virus, went home to Colorado. There he appears to have sexually transmitted the virus to his wife, who hadn’t traveled with him. In 2013, scientists found traces of the virus in the semen of a man from French Polynesia, despite the fact that there were no more traces of the virus in his blood.


Despite reports that raise the possibility of sexual transmission, the CDC cautions that the Zika virus is primarily transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. The CDC, however, advised men to consider using condoms after traveling to areas with the Zika virus. Pregnant women should avoid contact with semen from men exposed to the virus urged the CDC.


New York’s Wadsworth Laboratory Center is at the cutting edge of laboratory science. Wadsworth Laboratory scientists were instrumental in helping to halt the spread of Legionnaire’s disease in the Bronx last summer.


Cases of the Zika virus have been reported in more than 20 countries throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean, as well as Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. While this mosquito-borne infection is common in other parts of the world, Zika has only recently appeared in the Western Hemisphere. As a result, most lack the immunity needed to ward off infection.


Zika Virus_MicroencephalyNews of the Zika virus’ spread has centered primarily on a concurrent increase in cases of microcephaly, a condition that causes infants to be born with abnormally small heads and significant brain defects. While Brazilian health officials have yet to confirm the link between Zika and microcephaly in infants whose mothers were infected during pregnancy, the apparent correlation has incited widespread concern and varied instructions for pregnant women.


Because specific areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing are difficult to determine and likely to change over time, CDC will update their travel notices as information becomes available. Travelers should check the CDC travel website frequently for the most up-to-date recommendations.


Zika Virus Infographic

“We shouldn’t allow the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Zika virus to spark a panic.  Domestic and international health experts are taking this issue seriously, and I’m committed to working in Congress to ensure that this outbreak is dealt with quickly and competently,” said Rep. Eliot Engel.


Pregnant women and others traveling to one of these areas affected by Zika should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip, including:


· Dressing in long-sleeved shirts and long pants
· Staying indoors when mosquitoes are most active
· Using repellant products registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency
· Not overusing repellant – only applying as much as needed to provide protection
· Reading and following label directions before you use any kind of repellant



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