There’s still been only one confirmed case of Zika virus in Connecticut, but Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Raul Pino says they are continuing to monitor the situation.
Back from a Zika virus conference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Pino said Monday during a conference call with reporters that they are looking to increase their outreach to the Latino community in the state.
Since the virus is not currently being spread locally, travel to a country or territory where the disease is present is the most likely way for Connecticut residents to contract the virus. Pino said the state’s response is going to focus on travelers going to the affected areas and sexual transmission of the virus.
Puerto Rico has been hit very hard by the virus and there is a large Puerto Rican community in Connecticut. If Zika follows distribution patterns similar to other mosquito-borne viruses, Pino said that the CDC is expecting to eventually see about 700,000 of the 3.5 million people on the island affected by the virus.
There are currently only 325 confirmed, locally acquired cases in Puerto Rico, according to the CDC.
“The CDC is concerned these mosquitoes could be more aggressive than initially thought,” Pino said.
However, it’s unlikely there will be any locally acquired cases in Connecticut.
“We do not expect to see local transmission from mosquito to human,” in Connecticut, Pino said Monday.
But he admitted it’s possible that it could happen and the Department of Public Health personnel are preparing for that possibility, even though they are largely focused on the population of residents who frequently travel to the countries or territories impacted by the virus.
Only two types of mosquitoes transmit the virus and of those only one is found in Connecticut, near the coast in 10 municipalities south of I-95.
The primary carrier of the Zika virus — the Aedes aegypti mosquito — 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 recently.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is only found in the extreme southern portions of the United States, Andreadis said.
But there’s another breed — the Asian Tiger mosquito — that 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.”
Pino said the mosquito that could carry the virus is very attracted to urban environments, so a lot of the outreach will focus on the larger cities like New Haven, Bridgeport, and Stamford. These are mosquitoes that like to live in small cans or tires.
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.