Westchester Battles Claims Of Zika Unpreparedness

The Zika-virus scare continues making its way to the Hudson Valley and neighboring regions (see: the much-publicized instance of a pregnant Connecticut woman contracting the strain while in Central America) via four confirmed cases, including one here in Westchester. Consequently, there’s concern that the county isn’t taking enough action to keep the disease-carrying mosquitos under control. Moreover, media outlets have echoed this concern, quoting residents and politicians who feel the area’s resources aren’t being adequately meted out. So the question remains: Are the latest reports seizing on latent hysteria, or are we truly left vulnerable by local officials?

That might depend on everyone’s individual levels of alarm, but here are some concrete services Westchester’s offering to ameliorate worry and stave off Zika’s might. First and foremost, the county Health Department is offering free minnows, which feed on mosquito larvae in fresh water. Residents with ponds are encouraged to pick up the minnows to keep them from becoming mosquito-breeding sites (especially if they enjoy sitting outside in the summer—the property owners, not the insects). Said minnows are available at the Westchester County Airport from now through May 6, and from May 19-21.

Additionally, mosquito dunks and “Keep Healthy and Bug Off” brochures will be distributed to residents on six Mosquito Control Days this month, and to eliminate breeding sites, the Health Department will begin applying larvicide to catch basins that hold standing water as of this coming Monday.

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On the flipside, there are no plans in place to spray certain areas—like Hen Island on the Long Island Sound, whose residents tend to have summer homes with rain water catch basins—which has exacerbated fears. Though per the afore-linked CBS story, the county claims to have inspected Hen Island already, and pledges to put down traps later in May since the Zika-marked Asian Tiger mosquitos have reputedly descended there as recently as 2014.

“Our plan includes prevention, education, surveillance, and treatment. Starting May 9, we will evaluate catch basins countywide and add larvacide to those that hold standing water to prevent mosquitoes from developing,” says Caren Halbfinger, spokeswoman for the Westchester County Health Department. “We have doubled the number of mosquito trap sites and have added a new trap designed to attract and capture Aedes mosquitoes—the kind that is capable of transmitting Zika. The health department will monitor the mosquitoes found in Westchester and send mosquitoes for testing for West Nile and Zika viruses.”

As ever, the best advice is to keep checking in with sites like ours for more updates, be vigilant but not crazed, and immediately cancel your round-trip tickets to virtually anywhere tropical in the Western Hemisphere.

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