By RENEE BEYDA
With fears of the quickly spreading Zika virus growing, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that city health officials see no danger from it at this time in New York City.
He commented on the mosquito-borne disease, which can cause birth defects, during a roundtable discussion held Feb. 11 in City Hall with Dr. Herminia Palacio, a deputy mayor, and Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the city health commissioner.
“We have time before the onset of mosquito season to put measures in place to protect the people of this city,” de Blasio said.
Bassett said that New York City does not have the A. aegypti mosquito, the insect responsible for the transmission of the virus, but that it does have a cousin to that particular mosquito. It is not known if it carries the same virus.
“We remain cautiously optimistic that we will not have to deal with local Zika transmission from mosquitoes,” Palacio said. “Mother Nature may not share our optimism, and we want to be prepared for any curveballs coming our way.”
Bassett said that all women should take precaution while travelling to warmer environments, especially to Latin America and the Caribbean. It is highly recommended that all travel to infested countries be postponed for women who are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant.
In addition, ultrasounds and blood tests can be used to determine whether or not a fetus is infected, and Bassett advises women who just returned from a country with the disease and experience the Zika symptoms- fever, joint pain, rash and red eyes- to get tested as quickly as possible.
Selly Tawil, a new mother who teaches biology at Barkai Yeshiva in Brooklyn, said that such precautions city officials are taking instill a level of trust in the city that has been absent for a very long time. The virus, which causes microcephaly, or underdevelopment in the baby’s head, is only transmitted through female mosquitoes of a certain breed not found in New York City, she said.
“Although the Zika virus is highly unlikely to arrive to New York City, the precautions being taken and information being given to the public exceedingly helps the frightening situation and relieves the public while doing so,” Tawil said.
She urged greatly that women who are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant in the near future not travel to areas with the virus for their own safety and for the safety of their fetus.