ALBANY COUNTY — Last week, the offices of Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy released digital posters to spread the facts about Zika virus.
The response comes within weeks of President Barack Obama’s call to the nation for the rapid development of tools to combat against a mosquito-carrying virus that could spread into the United States once the seasons change.
As of date, three Albany County residents have tested positive for the virus, and another seven have been reported state-wide. According to the New York State Department of Health, the three individuals in Albany County contracted the virus after having traveled outside the country where it is prevalent.
“There is virtually no risk of acquiring Zika virus in New York State at this time as the virus cannot be spread by casual contact with an infected person and mosquitoes are not active in cold winter months,” said DOH Commissioner Howard Zucker. “But since this is a time of year when people travel to warmer climates and countries where Zika virus is found, we are urging residents, especially pregnant women, to check all health advisories before traveling and take preventive measures when traveling to affected countries.”
Only one in five people infected with Zika virus will get sick, with the most common symptoms being fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Symptoms typically begin two to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. There is currently no vaccine to prevent infection or medicine to treat Zika virus
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing (www.cdc.gov/travel). Adverse birth outcomes of infected women have been reported and studies are planned to learn more about the risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.
Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Pregnant women who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
See your healthcare provider if you are pregnant and develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes within 2 weeks after traveling to a country where Zika virus cases have been reported. Be sure to tell your health care provider where you traveled.
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.
The Department of Health’s Wadsworth Laboratory has the capacity to test for Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. The Department has shared information with providers across the state, alerting them to signs and symptoms of Zika virus, as well as the instructions on what samples are required to test for the virus. The Department will expand mosquito surveillance in the spring, to closely monitor Aedes albopictus, which is the one species of mosquito that can transmit Zika virus that is present in some parts of New York State.
The Wadsworth Center is one of only a few state public health laboratories, outside of the CDC, that can test for Zika virus.
Interim guidelines for care for pregnant women, including recommendations for screening, testing, and management of returning travelers is available from the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/.