Connecticut officials announce plan to address Zika virus

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HARTFORD -- On Thursday afternoon, Governor Dannel Malloy and a group of state officials held a meeting to discuss the state’s preparations and plans regarding the Zika virus. The group announced a multi-department coordination to respond to the virus.

“The more planning and preparation we do now, the more successful we’ll be in our response, if needed, later. We’ve developed a road map for a coordinated response by state agencies to any potential threat posed by Zika,” Gov. Malloy said.  “We’re working cross-functionally, across agencies, to ensure that we are being proactive and to ensure that we are as prepared as we possibly can be. It’s our obligation to protect residents, and we will be ready with a coordinated response if it’s required.”

To date, no cases of Zika virus associated disease have been identified among Connecticut residents and the state does not have the mosquitoes that carry the virus.

The state plan includes:

  • Public education on how to prevent becoming infected with Zika virus
  • Clinician outreach regarding what is known about the health consequences of infection
  • Laboratory testing of pregnant women who have travelled to areas where Zika virus is circulating is currently available by the Federal Centers for Disease Prevention and Control and will become available at the State Public Health Laboratory
  • Surveillance for Zika virus associated illnesses in humans including birth defects
  • Mosquito  surveillance for the presence of Aedes albopictus, a species related to Aedes aegypti which is not present in Connecticut
  • Mosquito management focused on source reduction especially in communities where Aedes albopictus has been identified during prior mosquito seasons

“In the months ahead, the Department of Public Health will work with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and the Mosquito Management program in a coordinated response to the Zika virus,” DPH Acting Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino said.  “We also will partner with local health and health care professionals to assist us in this effort.”

DPH reminds pregnant women in any trimester to consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.  Pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant who do travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip. Click here to learn more about the state's plan.

The World Health Organization announced at the beginning of the month that the explosive spread of the Zika virus in the Americas is an “extraordinary event” that merits being declared an international emergency.

The last such public health emergency was declared for the devastating 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which killed more than 11,000 people.

WHO estimates there could be up to 4 million cases of Zika in the Americas in the next year.

The Zika virus is usually spread through mosquito bites. Investigators have been exploring the possibility the virus also can be spread through sex. It was found in one man’s semen in Tahiti in 2013, and there was report of a Colorado researcher who caught the virus overseas and apparently spread it to his wife back home in 2008.

Click here for continuing coverage of the Zika virus.