Almost 500 New Yorkers have tested positive for Zika virus
Nearly 500 New Yorkers — including 49 pregnant women — have tested positive for the Zika virus, a more than tenfold increase since April, city officials said Tuesday.
Five of the 483 victims contracted the virus through sex.
The others are believed to have been infected from mosquito bites while traveling outside the United States — a majority in the Dominican Republic.
While no transmissions have been reported via local mosquitoes, Mayor de Blasio and other officials urged Congress to pass a stalled health package to provide resources to combat the virus before it becomes a full-bore crisis.
“We need the federal government to act now and pass the authorization of $1.9 billion in funding,” de Blasio said at the city’s public health lab in Kips Bay. “Without federal dollars, we cannot deepen our work and we won’t have the assurance that other jurisdictions are doing all they can do to fight Zika.”
The majority of the cases have been found in women — 340 compared to 143 men — and one infant was born with a birth defect that results in a smaller head, known as microcephaly.
“A public health crisis that begins with neglect by the public sector . . . becomes much more difficult to address going forward,” said state Assemblyman
Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan), who joined the mayor in advocating for federal funds.
“We know that even now, no matter what we do, it’s going to increase and get worse in the United Stated before it gets better.”
In April, the city announced plans to invest $21 million over three years to conduct research and testing of Zika, and to monitor and reduce the local mosquito population.
De Blasio said the city has already targeted mosquitoes for pesticide spraying — despite the lack of cases of local transmission — as a preventive measure.
City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said Zika isn’t a major issue for most people.
“Eighty percent of them, they don’t even know they’ve been infected — 80 percent of Zika infections are asymptomatic,” she said.
“For other people — for nonpregnant women — it’s self-limited, unpleasant, but full recovery is expected. People get fever, headache, joint pains, a rash, red eyes, and then it goes away in a couple of days,” she added.
“But the problem is that it’s transmitted from the mother to her baby, and that is the true victim of Zika — the developing baby. And that’s why we are so focused on protecting pregnant women.”