Zika virus could threaten New York

Image 1 of 2

The CDC says there have been about 600 cases of Zika virus in the United States so far. New York State has had about 130 cases but those numbers are expected to rise as summer travel season kicks into full gear.

Dr. Juan Tapia-Mendoza runs Pediatrics 2000, a clinic in Harlem where many of the patients plan to spend their summers visiting family in the Caribbean, some in areas where the Zika virus is prevalent. Dr. Tapia-Mendoza and his staff are ramping up efforts to spread the work about the mosquito-borne virus. They're handing out literature, putting up special illustrations and making sure any patients who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant stay away from impacted areas. And the staff is spending time emphasizing to patients that the virus is also sexually transmitted.

This week the World Health Organization announced sexual transmission of Zika is more common than first thought. The organization is now advising women and men who have been in areas hit by the virus to wait at least 8 weeks before trying to conceive.

Pregnant women are at greatest risk because Zika has been linked to a rare birth defect in which babies are born with brain damage.

Internal medicine physician Dr. Keri Petersen says if you aren't pregnant and get Zika, the symptoms are likely to be mild. But she is still encouraging caution for patients traveling to areas particularly hard hit.

As for whether or not the Aedes aegypti mosquito which carries Zika will wind up in our area, the CDC's latest map suggests New Jersey and the southern tip of the New York State, including the city, could be in the impacted zone. But only time will tell.