Four Connecticut residents, including one pregnant woman, have been infected by the Zika virus after traveling to Zika-affected countries.
Connecticut’s Department of Public Health is teaming up with the Connecticut Airport Authority in creating materials to warn travelers headed to Zika-affected territories like Puerto Rico, where 1 in 5 Puerto Ricans are likely to contract the virus at some point.
There are daily direct flights from Bradley International Airport to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Dr. Raul Pino, commissioner of Public Health, said they will provide fliers to travelers leaving Connecticut for the island and fliers for those who return. The exact start date of the informational campaign has yet to be determined.
At a press conference Friday at the Hispanic Health Council, Pino urged residents to avoid travel to Zika-affected countries or territories, especially if they are looking to conceive. He warned that travelers should not return home and have unprotected sex with their partners for six months.
“Eighty percent of people who have the virus don’t know they have the virus,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said. “So people will think they don’t have the virus when in fact they do have the virus.”
That’s why the Department of Public Health is warning residents who have traveled to these regions not to have unprotected sex for six months after their return.
Across the U.S., six cases have been reported wherein the virus was sexually transmitted by individuals who traveled to a Zika-affect country and then returned to the states.
The likelihood that a Connecticut resident will contract the virus through sexual contact is much greater than the likelihood it will be transmitted by a mosquito.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito — the primary carrier of the Zika virus — is not part of Connecticut’s mosquito population, but there’s another mosquito in Fairfield and New Haven counties that could carry the virus, according to Theodore Andreadis, who heads the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is primarily associated with the Zika outbreak, is only found in the extreme southern portions of the United States, Andreadis said.
But there’s another breed called the Asian Tiger mosquito that has been involved in small outbreaks of Zika virus in other parts of the world.
Last week, the Pan American Health Organization announced for the first time that it had detected Zika in Asian Tiger mosquitos in Mexico.
“If this virus moves into this species then that will represent a more serious threat to those of us here in more temperate regions,” Andreadis said.
Andreadis said they will continue to monitor for the virus at the more than 90 mosquito trapping stations.
“We are much more likely to see sexual transmission in the state,” Andreadis said.
If you must travel to a Zika-affected country, wear long sleeves or stay in places with air conditioners, Malloy said.
“We will see more cases in Connecticut as the summer travel season ramps up, and it is essential for people to take precautions when traveling to regions that are impacted by the virus,” Malloy said.
Malloy said the Zika virus is a “national emergency” and Congress should release funding to address it without taking from money allocated for the Ebola crisis.
Taking a more political stance, Malloy pointed out that Republican members of Congress are from southern states where the Zika virus could be transmitted by the local mosquito population.
“The time for Congress to act is now,” Malloy said. “People’s lives and the lives of unborn children are at risk.”