(Updated 3 p.m.) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Connecticut is prepared to respond to the Zika virus, if it makes it to the Connecticut.
To date, no cases of Zika virus have been identified among Connecticut residents and health officials said that no locally mosquito-transmitted Zika cases have been reported in the continental United States.
At a press conference in the Emergency Operations Center Thursday, officials said it’s unlikely the Zika virus will be spread this spring and summer by local mosquitoes to Connecticut residents. They do expect to see cases in residents who have traveled to countries where there’s active transmission.
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station will monitor the mosquito population across the state through its network of 91 traps in 72 towns. The traps are monitored June through October and each site is visited every 10 days by staff.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito that’s the primary carrier of the Zika virus is not part of Connecticut’s mosquito population and while one of the species Connecticut does have could act as a carrier of the virus, it’s “not likely to occur,” Theodore Andreadis, who heads the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, said.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is only found in the extreme southern portions of the United States, Andreadis said.
But there’s another mosquito called the Asian Tiger mosquito and it has been involved in small outbreaks of Zika virus in other parts of the world.
“There’s no indication that this mosquito is involved yet,” Andreadis said. “We do have some local populations here in Connecticut that are restricted to lower coastal Fairfield and New Haven counties. We will be monitoring those mosquito very closely.”
He added that he does not anticipate the Zika virus will show up in the local mosquito population, but “we will monitor for it and we will test for it.”
He said they do have the Zika virus in their containment facility in New Haven and will be doing experiments on species found in Connecticut to see if they can contract the virus. Results from those tests won’t be available for several months.
By the end of this month though the state will have the ability to test residents for the Zika virus, which means samples won’t have to be sent to the Centers for Disease Control for testing.
The Department of Public Health’s Acting Commissioner Raul Pino said they received 30 requests from providers to test samples from pregnant women and have sent 8 samples to the CDC about two weeks ago. The results have not come back to the state.
Zika will become a mandatory reportable disease on Monday, which means health care providers will have to alert the Department of Public Health of any patients they suspect of contracting the disease.
Pino said there have been 21 cases of Zika in Puerto Rico and a large number of Connecticut residents are from the island and travel back and forth frequently. He said there’s also an education aspect to this.
Since, Zika can be sexually transmitted, they are asking those who have traveled to take precautions and use protection.
The Zika virus is spread by daytime mosquitoes and is similar to the West Nile virus. Common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week.
There is no vaccine for the virus and only 1 out of 5 people infected with the virus will experience symptoms.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control issued a travel advisory for pregnant women in January advising them to postpone travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission. That’s a list of about 30 countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean.
World Health Organization declared the Zika virus an international emergency after a concentration of birth defects, microcephaly, and a potentially crippling disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome started showing up in babies born in Brazil.