Hudson Valley residents’ fears that our area is not properly prepared to defend against disease-carrying mosquitos may have been validated this week. According to News 12, a total of 29 confirmed cases of Zika infections have been diagnosed across both Rockland (10 cases) and Westchester (19 cases) counties. Eight of those infected are said to be pregnant, though Caren Halbfinger, Director of Public Affairs for Westchester County Health Department, tells Westchester magazine that none of that county’s infected were pregnant women. (Halbfinger confirms that the total numbers are accurate.) News 12 also reports that officials are stating all local cases have been contracted while traveling outside the country. Health-privacy laws have prohibited the disclosure of where they contracted it.
Zika spreads via an infected Aedes mosquito, but the infection can also be sexually transmitted, and result in birth defects (notably microcephaly) among pregnant woman. Symptoms are typically mild, so it may be difficult to detect. For a full list of symptoms, check the Centers for Disease Control website.
For more Zika-related information, New York residents can call (888) 364-4723 on weekdays between 9 am-6 pm.
Hudson Valley has placed calls with the New York State and Rockland County Health Departments and are waiting for comment. Updates will be provided as more information comes is available.
UPDATE (8/29, 10:06 am): The New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) provided updated information on these Zika cases, clarifying that between Westchester and Rockland counties, there are 19 infected women, 3 of which are currently pregnant with no complications, and 10 infected males. Additionally, the NYS DOH provides these precautionary tips:
“Zika can be passed through unprotected sex from a person who has Zika to his or her sexual partner. Zika can be passed through sex, even if the person does not have symptoms at the time. It can be passed from a person with Zika virus at any time during their infection, and may also be passed by a person who carries the virus but never develops symptoms. Therefore, people whose partners have traveled to or live in an area with Zika can prevent Zika by using condoms (or other barriers that protect against infection) every time they have sex or by not having sex.
At home, while no local transmissions of Zika have happened in New York, it is important to take precautions against mosquito bites by wearing shoes, socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt when outside for a long period of time. Applying a mosquito repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or IR3535 is also recommended to prevent mosquito bites. It is also important to reduce mosquito breeding grounds,” such as outdoor containers, tires, garbage and recylcing containers left outside, gutters, bird baths, wheelbarrows, and pool covers.
UPDATE (8/26, 10:10 am): Previously, we stated that the Health Department confirmed none of the 19 infected Westchester individuals were pregnant women. That was incorrect. Two of the women were pregnant, but none of those infected are currently pregnant.