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New York Health Officials: No Plan for Zika Virus Yet


HOST INTRO: The Zika virus is rapidly spreading throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean. Health authorities in NYC are figuring out how to prepare – and New York may have a couple of things going for it. Laura Gamba reports.

GAMBA 1: When Simanta Roy Buck found out she was pregnant – four months ago-, she planned one last romantic trip with her husband to the beaches of the Dominican Republic. That is, until Zika. The mosquito borne disease seems to cause microcephaly – severe brain damage in babies who are born with abnormally small heads. So she decided to ask her Doctor.


She said is it worth you going to the DR when you are going to be worried the whole time? 

GAMBA 2: Buck agreed – not worth the risk. At the time, the Dominican Republic was not on the list of countries that the Center for the Disease Control had advised pregnant women not to travel to. But it was close by. Her online travel company Expedia fought the cancellation. But the next day the CDC officially listed the Dominican Republic as a place pregnant women shouldn’t go.


By the end of the day, Expedia had refunded the money.

GAMBA 3: New York state has recommended that pregnant women who return from Zika affected areas test for the virus. But the tests are expensive and difficult to do. Dyan Summer is a public health nurse at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. She was one of first public researchers to treat a patient with zika. She says it takes a long time to get the results.


The way that you have to do it is you go through the city of New York, who then goes to the state of NY, who then goes to the CDC.

GAMBA 5: Summer’s patient, who had returned from French Polynesia, was one of the first people diagnosed with Zika  in the United States back in 2013 .


He had a bright red rash, fever, achy joints, felt like sleeping all the times and an infection in his eyes.

GAMBA 6: In this recent outbreak, New York has three cases where travelers have brought back Zika virus disease. Calls to local hospitals show that they don’t really have a solid plan yet.  (ringing)


GAMBA 7: But if it does make it to NY, the city might catch a break.


I think it’s not going to establish itself in a place like New York.

GAMBA 8:Steven Morse is an epidemiologist who has been studying infectious diseases for 30 years. He says the main mosquito identified as carrying Zika usually isn’t found in the north. And although he says it’s possible mosquitoes infected with Zika can survive in the city, New York has been at war against mosquitos since 2000 thanks to another mosquito-born virus.


In the early days of West Nile we had these black helicopters sort of like the military spraying insecticide over central park and in many other parts of the city.

GAMBA 9: For now, people on the highest alert are pregnant women who plan to travel like Simanta Roy – the one who cancelled her baby moon to the Dominican Republic. She will stay a little closer to home.


Somewhere like San Diego or South Carolina. Somewhere warm but somewhere where the CDC says it’s ok for us to go.

GAMBA 10: At least until there is a better set of guidelines. Laura Gamba, Columbia Radio News.


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