Can New Jersey’s mosquitoes carry Zika?
The jury is out on whether or not the mosquitoes in New Jersey will be able to carry and transmit Zika in the warmer months ahead, but state health officials claim there's no real threat of an outbreak in the Garden State.
According to the New Jersey Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is in the process of determining how effective New Jersey's mosquitoes would be at transferring Zika from one human to another. The virus is spread through the bite of a species typically found in southern states and outside the country, but New Jersey is home to a "closely-related," "cousin" species.
In any case, DOH Acting Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said her department has no reason to expect an outbreak of Zika in New Jersey when mosquitoes pop up in late spring and summer, thanks in part to solid mosquito control management.
"That helps to reduce the mosquito population," Bennett told New Jersey 101.5. "In addition to that, here in New Jersey, what we have that will also prevent there being an outbreak...we have a lot of use of air conditioning, and most people have screens on their windows and doors."
As of late Monday, 36 countries and territories were listed by the CDC as having active mosquito-borne transmission of Zika. There have been no such cases in the United States, but travel-associated cases have been reported.
In late February, New Jersey confirmed its second Zika case - a Hudson County woman who had traveled to Honduras.
An event on the Montclair State University campus last week kicked off the state's #ZapZika public education campaign, aimed at those who are most at risk of the virus.
"Our concern is for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, or their partners having Zika, because of the possibility of having poor pregnancy outcomes," Bennett said.
The campaign includes transit and radio ads, a social media push, and in-person meetings between the public and state health officials. The next event is scheduled for Mar. 16 at North Hudson Community Action Corporation in West New York, NJ.
Beyond pregnant women, Bennett said, Zika is not much of a problem for most people. Because the symptoms are not severe - fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis - most people may not even realize they're infected.