City committed $21 million for robust plan to protect New Yorkers from Zika; Mosquito-dense areas treated citywide; 3,400 at-risk women tested in New York City. Mayor calls on Congress to approve $1.9 billion emergency funding package to keep Americans safe
NEW YORK––Mayor Bill de Blasio was recently joined by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Congressman Jose E. Serrano, State Senator and Democratic nominee for NY-13 Adriano Espaillat, State Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett to update New Yorkers on the City’s ongoing efforts to combat the Zika virus and call on the federal government to increase funding to New York to continue to combat the Zika virus.
To date, New York City has invested $21 million over three years to enhance mosquito surveillance and control, increase testing and build greater public awareness around the virus. Since the announcement of the City’s Zika Action Plan in April, over 3,400 at-risk pregnant women have been tested, with 49 pregnant women testing positive and one baby born with microcephaly due to Zika.
“New York City is deeply proud of our aggressive and comprehensive Zika response,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Though the mosquito carrying Zika has not been identified here, nearly a quarter of all positive cases in the continental United States are in New York. As a global city, we must continue to act aggressively with the full support of our federal government, and we hope the other cities will adhere to this model.”
“Zika is a national public health crisis, and like any crisis, it requires support from the federal government for municipalities like New York City to sustain ongoing response and planning efforts,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “In the absence of federal funding, the Mayor’s unparalleled commitment to protect New Yorkers from the Zika virus has allowed the Health Department to expand its mosquito control efforts and enhance its testing capacity at the City’s Public Health Laboratory. These are critical in the fight against the Zika virus, but we need Congress to act.”
Most people testing positive for Zika in New York City acquired the infection from mosquito bites incurred while travelling to Zika-affected areas (with a small minority – four – associated with sexual transmission). Though the mosquito most associated with Zika has not been found in the city, a related mosquito that is a potential carrier has. The Health Department has to-date completed mosquito treatments in every borough, totaling 79 community sprays, with tomorrow’s scheduled event marking the City’s fifth pesticide spraying in a mosquito-dense area.
Due to increasing nationwide concern, New York City recently expanded the criteria for Zika testing, from anyone who recently traveled to a Zika-affected region, to now anyone over the age five who has three or more symptoms associated with Zika. These symptoms include fever, a widespread skin rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis. Though Zika presents with mild symptoms in most people, pregnant women, women seeking to become pregnant and their partners are warned not to travel to Zika-affected areas. Those who have should use condoms or abstain from sexual intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy.
“Although public health experts do not expect that the United States mainland will see the kind of widespread outbreaks that are happening in Brazil or Puerto Rico, that does not mean we can sit by complacently and hope for the best,” saidCongresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “We cannot afford to play politics with the health of the American people. It is time for Congressional leadership to act – and act responsibly. We must put adequate resources toward combating this virus to develop a vaccine and enable states to take precautions like the ones that have been implemented here in New York City by Mayor de Blasio and the dedicated team over at New York City Health. ”
“To date, Congressional Republicans have abdicated their solemn responsibility to allocate sufficient resources for dealing with the spread of Zika. This disease is a threat to all Americans, to New Yorkers and has already been impacting Puerto Rico. Congress needs to act responsibly and swiftly to address this public health threat,” said Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez.
"As a Senior Member of the Appropriations Committee appointed to the Zika Conference Committee, I am fighting to fully fund the President’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to address the Zika crisis. Republicans in Congress have failed the American people by preventing an adequate funding bill from being debated and passed. Congress can and must do more to provide adequate levels of funding to ensure this virus does not spread further. It’s time Congress take the lead as we did during other natural disasters and public health crises,” said Congressman José E. Serrano.
“Zika is a serious threat to public health, and it is imperative that our city has the resources it needs to protect every New Yorker,” said State Senator Adriano Espaillat. “New York City has done a tremendous job in educating New Yorkers and preparing a robust vision to maintain the health and well-being of the public. With greater federal support, we could expand prevention efforts and move closer to a vaccine.”
"Under the de Blasio administration, this Department of Health has done a truly extraordinary job of protecting New Yorkers from potential health threats," said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. "This was true of managing the Ebola outbreak, this was true of Legionnaires, and it is true of the current threat posed by Zika. New Yorkers should follow the wisdom of DOHMH's advice and share its important safety tips with friends and family. Maintaining public health requires our citizenship to be equipped with the best information, and under the Department of Health's stellar leadership, I know we will manage this threat."
Throughout the summer, the Health Department has continued an aggressive campaign focused on reminding pregnant New Yorkers and their partners to avoid traveling to Zika-affected areas. The latest Center for Disease Control (CDC) review noted 483 positive cases of Zika in New York City. It remains critical to keep infections down, yet without appropriate federal funding, many jurisdictions lack the necessary resources to do so. Because of this, the Obama Administration recently committed $81 million in part to develop a vaccine to combat Zika, following Congressional failure to approve new funding.
As New York City continues to implement our Zika Action Plan, increased funding will be necessary to sustain a long-term response that includes research and vaccine development, as well as continuing emergency-preparedness planning. Mayor de Blasio has appealed to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to support the $1.9 billion emergency funding package that will combat this crisis and keep millions of Americans safe.
Mayor de Blasio’s letter to the U.S. House of Representatives can be found here.