It was only a matter of time before Zika would appear in the USA. Over the past few weeks, new cases of Zika virus have been reported in Florida and now New York has taken a proactive approach to prevent the virus from spreading. The city has already started spraying areas of the city to ensure that the mosquitos that cause Zika virus do not establish themselves in the city.
The spraying program called adulticide kills the insects before they hatch. The present program is aimed at the Aedes Albopictus, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito, a relative of the dreaded Aedes aegypti, and the main transmitter of the Zika virus around the world. While the Asian tiger mosquito hasn’t been shown to be a vehicle for transmission of the Zika virus but NY City officials do not want to take any chances. The Public Health Minister of New York, Mary T Bassett has stated that they are just trying to minimize the public health risk by killing as many mosquitoes as possible.
Presently researchers indicate that Zika is on course to infect more than 90 million people globally and this includes nearly 2 million women of child bearing age – which could result in thousands of deformed babies. The grim forecast may become even worse if sexual transmission of the Zika virus becomes more prevalent or the Asian tiger mosquitoes become a carrier of the virus as well.
So far no one knows what course the Zika virus will take but the Government has urged all states to take proactive measures to keep the virus at bay. Already clusters of locally transmitted Zika virus cases have been reported in Miami.
The deputy commissioner for environmental health, Dr Daniel Kass, feels that NY is in a much better position than other places to combat the threat. However, what he failed to mention is that the Asian tiger mosquito is a more formidable insect than the Culex mosquito and is known to transmit the West Nile virus, which continues to persist despite extensive efforts to eliminate it for the past 15 years.
Both the Aedes aegypti and albopictus mosquitoes are not easy to kill, as they tend to thrive even in small areas of water. They often lay the eggs on the surface of the water and the eggs can survive for many months even in dry weather. Finally, both are prolific breeders giving rise to millions of offspring each season.
The albopictus mosquitoes were first spotted in North America about 35 years ago and now they are found in 30 states and have been shown to thrive even in the cooler climates of the northern US.
The current New City campaign is expected to cost nearly $21 million over the next 3 years. The city has now trained and licensed nearly five dozen individuals from different agencies to help fight the Zika war. The city has also been getting help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta who are also actively tracking the mosquito and Zika cases. To aid the war against mosquitos, the city has also laid out mosquito traps, which are surveyed each week.