As of this week, 483 New Yorkers have tested positive for Zika. Health officials say that the majority of these cases were contracted overseas, and that no mosquitos in the area have tested positive for the virus—still, city officials are pushing the federal government to step up efforts to keep Zika from spreading in the area.
Mayor de Blasio teamed up with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Mary Bassett at a press conference yesterday, urging Congress to pass a bill that would provide $1.9 billion to fight the virus. The bill was blocked by Senate Democrats in June over Republican-approved provisions that would keep women from getting access to contraception and would hurt the environment, among other things, but de Blasio & co. say this is a crisis that demands urgent action.
Though the mosquito that carries Zika has not been found in New York, many residents contracted the illness while visiting family or abroad in Zika-affected regions like the Dominican Republic. 48 of the 340 women who had Zika were pregnant, and in July a baby was born with Zika-related birth defects in NYC. And the city says the virus is an even bigger problem considering a handful of New Yorkers contracted Zika through sex. "Our city is second in our country with Zika cases and four of these were transmitted through sex," Maloney said yesterday. "The threat across this country and in our city is deep. It is strong and it is real."
Most people who are infected with Zika don't have any symptoms, and don't come away from the virus with any lasting health problems. But the birth defects it causes are incredibly problematic for pregnant women, and officials are only just now starting to understand how it's transmitted through sexual contact, making it all the more pressing for Congress to dole out money for research and prevention.
Meanwhile, the Health Department says it will spray pesticides in parts of Manhattan and Queens overnight tonight in hopes of staving off Zika and West Nile. This is the fifth time this year the department has sprayed locally. "While we do not expect to find Zika in New York City’s mosquitoes, we are taking no chances," Bassett said.