New York state will monitor and target a type of mosquito that officials fear could spread the Zika virus, part of a new plan to combat the disease that also includes distributing prevention kits to pregnant women.
The state has seen 49 cases of Zika so far, nearly all of them in people who have recently traveled to affected areas, which include Central and South America, Africa and Asia.
"We expect that number to go up. How high we don't know," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday at a Manhattan news conference called to unveil the new protocols. "From a public health point of view, we want to be prepared. We want to be ahead of it."
The virus has been linked to congenital skull and brain defects in newborns and is believed to be sexually transmitted as well. The symptoms are usually mild, can include a rash, fever, joint pain, or conjunctivitis and appear a few days after a bite by an infected mosquito.
The virus is known to be spread primarily by a type of mosquito not present in the state — but a closely related species is found within New York in New York City and nearby counties. Officials say there is a possibility it too could spread the virus.
New York plans to monitor and test that type of mosquito for the virus, and distribute 100,000 free larvicide tablets that can be used to eliminate breeding sites for the insect in areas of standing water.
"We will eliminate Zika at its source," said state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.
In addition, the state will distribute free prevention kits to pregnant woman that include repellent and condoms. The state is already offering free Zika virus tests to pregnant women who have traveled to affected areas or have sexual partners who have.