New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a series of new aggressive initiatives to combat the Zika virus in New York State. At the Governor’s direction, the state Department of Health, in partnership with the MTA, is deploying larvicide tablets to standing water within the subway system to decrease the prevalence of potential breeding grounds for the albopictus mosquito.
In addition, the Department of Health will coordinate with all state agencies, including the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and the Department of Environmental Conservation, to ensure all measures possible are being taken to proactively address the situation. The state is also redoubling its efforts to protect New Yorkers from the virus — ramping up distribution of larvicide tablets to homeowners and providing more Zika protection kits to pregnant women at health and family planning centers and WIC programs across the state.
The new initiatives build on the Gov.’s previously announced comprehensive six-step plan to combat the Zika virus, including the launch of a statewide public awareness campaign, establishing a new rapid response team and requiring that county health departments submit Zika action plans to the state. New York City and the 57 other counties in New York have all received approval from the Department of Health on local Zika action plans. Additionally, more than 267 traps are monitored throughout New York State and 110,000 mosquitoes have been tested this year — all showing negative results for the virus.
“The Zika virus remains a dangerous public health threat, and New York State continues to pursue every possible measure to combat it,” Gov. Cuomo said. “By enlisting the cooperation of state agencies and New Yorkers, we are taking aggressive action to help reduce the prevalence of mosquito breeding grounds across the state and stop this disease at its source. As the Zika situation continues to evolve, we will remain vigilant and strengthen our prevention efforts to safeguard the public health and safety of all New Yorkers.”
As mosquitoes lay eggs in or near water, and their offspring “grow up” in water before emerging as adults that fly and bite, stagnant water serves as potential breeding ground for mosquitoes capable of transmitting the Zika virus. The state is taking aggressive action to apply larvicide tablets to standing water and reduce the risk of potential transmission of the virus.
As part of the new effort, the state Department of Health, in partnership with the MTA, will target 36 priority locations to eliminate sources of standing water. The primary focus will be to increase drainage within the stations, while also deploying larvicide tablets as needed. Working with the MTA, the Department of Health will also put place new traps to monitor the mosquito population and ensure rigorous testing and reporting of the presence of the albopictus mosquito across the system.
The Zika virus is transmitted primarily by the Aedes aegypti mosquito in South and Central America. The virus can also be sexually transmitted. Although Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are not present in New York, a related species named Aedes albopictus is active in the downstate region. Scientists have not yet determined if Aedes albopictus — the type in New York — transmits Zika. There are 70 different species of mosquito in New York State and Aedes albopictus make up just three to 5% of the total population.
“With six million daily subway customers, the MTA takes public health concerns just as seriously as our operational safety,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast. “Some 13 million gallons of water enters the subway system every day, from precipitation, intrusion of ground water and even the water we use to power clean platforms. But the serious threat of virus carrying mosquitos makes it even more important we have clean, functioning drains, and adequate pump equipment, aggressive inspection and pumping schedules to remove standing water. At Governor Cuomo’s direction, we are stepping up our efforts to clear standing water which could breed virus-carrying mosquitos, and to treat areas that might allow breeding so that our passengers can travel the subway system confident that we taking all necessary preventive steps to protect them.”