Aug 22, 2016

How New York City Is Fighting the Growing Threat of Zika

New York, NY
Charley Lanyon
Daily Intelligencer
Photo: Joao Paulo Burini
Photo: Joao Paulo Burini

Multiple cases of the Zika infection have been reported recently in Florida, including infections at the tourist destination of Miami’s South Beach, and significantly it appears that each was spread by local American mosquitos. The Zika question for much of the continental United States has become “when,” not “if,” and though the response to the epidemic on a national level has fallen short, locally cities are scrambling to meet the virus head on.

In New York, that means a widespread mosquito-eradication initiative, constant testing of mosquitoes caught in traps across the city, and a ramped-up public-education campaign.

New York City has already seen more than 500 cases of Zika brought in from people who caught the disease while traveling, but so far there have been no confirmed cases of the virus being locally transmitted.

We’ve been lucky mostly because New York has the wrong type of mosquito. The Aedes aegypti has been the major carrier of the Zika virus and they just don’t come this far north. What we do have is one of its relatives: the Aedes albopictus or Asian tiger mosquito.

The fear is that the two species are so closely related that the albopictus could become a carrier for Zika, and if that happens, we’re in big trouble.

Thus, the city is going after the Asian tiger mosquito hard, with large-scale predawn insecticide sprayings from the backs of pickup trucks and smaller more-targeted assaults from teams of exterminators with backpacks full of mosquito poison that focus on areas believed to be especially high-risk